Oct 16

Blue Sky in Beijing

Written by wuming on Thursday, October 16th, 2008 at 2:35 am
Filed under:General | Tags:, ,
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Last time I was in Beijing was two and half year ago. Beijing now is once again a very different city, the investment must have far exceeded $40 Billion.

The most impressive is the frequent return of blue sky in Fall Beijing, here is the evidence:

There are currently 1 comments highlighted: 18022.

25 Responses to “Blue Sky in Beijing”

  1. wuming Says:

    The images posted Thumbnail like. Click on each twice will show a larger and complete version

    admin’s note: Not necessary anymore. 🙂

  2. Wukailong Says:

    The blue sky is great. I’ve never enjoyed strolling around in Beijing as much as the last half year.

  3. Kage Musha Says:

    Looking very good indeed.
    Last time I was there it wasn’t good. But now…hope they can keep this up though. So when I go there next year it’s still like this (or better? :P)

    Would be nice if the admins implemented a nicer system to post images. Now you have to click and load twice. With some JS the original picture can popup.

  4. chinayouren Says:

    Everybody speaks about Beijing pollution, but having lived in both cities, I always thought Shanghai’s situation was much worse. At least in Beijing we did get some beautiful cold winter days with blue sky. That was back in 2001 before the olympics had any impact. Now in a whole year in Shanghai there hasn’t been one day with proper blue sky, there is always a tinge of yellow or brown… and it smells.

    I have been told that the reason is the nature of the pollution. Shanghai’s is mostly from chemical industry. Beijing is steel works and dust from construction these last years. It makes sense, and if you ask me, chemical sounds more scary.

    Any chance Shanghai will get some green regulations for the 2010 shibohui?

  5. hotshotdebut Says:

    In Shanghai’s defense, Shanghai has so many blue-skied day if not everyday.


  6. wuming Says:

    Though I was a Beijinger, I had preferred Shanghai over Beijing last few times I visited. But I think Beijing has outclassed Shanghai this time around. Think a more deluxe version of Pudong being repeated many times in Beijing. Architecture feels more substantial and genuinely innovative. There is an air of efficiency and competence that has always been absent from Beijing.

    Olympics gave a glimpse of this New China represented by Beijing. This picture becomes especially conspicuous in light of this financial tsunami.

  7. TonyP4 Says:

    The clear sky for Beijing is for Olympics and I hope they will do same for Shanghai in 2010 World Fair.

    Most problems are caused by burning low-grade coal to generate electricity. Some steal and similar factories are moved outside big cities (let other folks suffer). China is improving with state-of-the-art coal electricity generator. With 2 new coal generators every week, it is tough to clean up the sky. Shipping high grade coal from Northeast on a long distance cause its own pollution.

    When I left Hong Kong in late 60s, HK has clear sky. Last year it was polluted from the dirty air from South China. Industry has its price. Same for water pollution.

  8. Charles Liu Says:

    Why doesn’t China buy clean coal technology from US? We use a lot of coal too.

    ChinaU, Hotshot, speaking of the “polluted sky” thing, from your description it sounds like LA. There are good days you can see the coast from the hills, and there are bad days you can barely see downtown.

  9. Raj Says:

    chinayouren, is that because Beijing was catching Shanghai up? I always thought that the latter took off before Beijing, so of course Beijing would seem nice in comparison for a while. My view of Beijing is that its roads are more clogged.

    Beijing say that they’ll keep the Olympic air quality controls going for a while because they’re so popular. I hope they can sustain that as long as possible, though we shall see. When the BBC interviewed Beijing car drivers no one (at least in public) complained about it – one guy said he had two cars so didn’t care!


    Charles, I don’t know who makes the decisions in regards to how power stations are upgraded, but I think that it’s probably down to local officials. If they push for greener power then they’ll say “oi, you – install more efficient boilers, carbon scrubbers, make sure you build your plant to European/American specs, etc”. But if they just want economic growth (or even a few backhanders) they’ll let anything go.

    I suppose the national government still has a responsibility as it could bring in national guidelines and punish any of the authorities that looked the other way when they were being ignored. It depends on political will.

  10. Steve Rose Says:

    Don’t use CPL if you want to show the real color of the sky.

  11. TonyP4 Says:

    It could be the best time now to buy the entire company and its technology in the cleanest way to generate electricity from coal. No one will object.

    However, it still needs to use the high quality coal from Northeast. From those out-of-reach area, nuclear and hydro are the best options. In short term, they still have to use low quality coal where locally available. It pollutes our planet. China is the leader in using alternate, clean energy (surprise to some).

  12. ecodelta Says:

    “A detailed analysis of powerplants in China by MIT researchers debunks the widespread notion that outmoded energy technology or the utter absence of government regulation is to blame for that country’s notorious air-pollution problems”


  13. ecodelta Says:

    “China is the leader in using alternate, clean energy (surprise to some).”

    In relative or absolute terms?

  14. Allen Says:

    Not to be cynical – but is this real, substantive, genuine improvement – or did you simply catch a clear October Beijing blue sky?

  15. Steve Says:

    Ecodelta, your MIT link confirmed something I had read about. Because there is no financial incentive to use scrubbing technology that has already been installed, the power plant just turns the scrubbers off so the exhaust still contains high levels of SO2, which produces the acid rain everyone wants to eliminate. I believe the government sets the price the energy companies can charge, so when the price of low sulfur coal rises, they substitute high sulfur coal so they can make a profit. The scrubbers use energy, so they just turn those off to increase their bottom line.

    If the government hikes the price of high sulfur coal and/or gives rebates for using low sulfur coal, then the economics should work. As far as using the scrubber technology, those are computer monitored so they should be able to track that electronically once they install the technology and hire the regulators.

    The skies look nice! I never seemed to hit Beijing when the skies were clear; they always seemed worse than Shanghai, but I haven’t been there since it was cleaned up for the Olympics. Last time I was there, there were gray skies the entire time and it stayed below freezing for the week with a stiff wind from the northwest. Nasty weather!

  16. TonyP4 Says:

    In absolute term, solar is #1. I forget hydro and wind ranks, but it seems to be catching up fast. When I traveled in China, I saw a lot of barrels on roof tops. I suspect those are hot water tank heated by solar. Would some one verify it.

    From Wikipedia:

    China is the world leading renewable energy producer, with an installed capacity of 152 GW.[4] China has been invested heavily in renewable energy field in recent year. In 2007, the total renewable energy investment is $12 billion USD, second only to Germany, and expected to be the world No 1 by 2009.[20] Approximately 7% of China’s energy was from renewable sources in 2006, a figure targeted to rise to 10% by 2010 and to 16% by 2020.[13] The major renewable energy source in China is hydropower. Total hydro-electric output in China in 2006 was 416 billion kWh. China is already the country with the most hydro-electric capacity in the world, and the Three Gorges Dam is projected to be the largest hydro-electric power station in the world with a total capacity of 22.5 GW.

  17. ecodelta Says:

    Maybe creating something similar to the CO2 certificates but for sulfuric emissions, or any other prenicious pollutants could help to reduce the usage of low quality coal, and incentivate the use of the already installed anti pollutant equipment.

    Those power plants that pollute more have to pay to get those certificates. Not enough certificates implies that the plan has to pay more to get more of them. Not enough certificates implies reduction of generation capacity. In extreme case closing the power plant.

    Government generates certificates according to pollution level. Factories of that pollution level must buy a given amount of certificates to be able to operate according to pollutants quantity. If factory reduce pollution through improved operation, excess certificates can be sold to other plants of higher pollution level.

    The trick is to make the cost of pollution visible and the cost directed to those that produce most of it. Instead of dumping it as hidden cost (externality) to the society, who pays for it with its health and/or lower live quality

  18. wuming Says:


    Autumn is always the best season in Beijing, pollution tends to clear out quicker in drier air, and the sand storms yet to hit. Based purely on visual impression, out of 6 days so far I have been in Beijing, 3 days were very good, 2 were OK, one looked bad. I was told by a friend that one of the clearer days had higher level of pollution than the bad day.

    Pollution and food safety problems in China are deep and complex. However, as an optimist, I believe that China is one country that is still capable of addressing such problems pro-actively.

  19. TommyBahamas Says:

    This morning on CCTV9 DIALOGUE. Subject: Land Reform-Past, Present, Future. [T]he Most important Chinese policy is to feed China’s over a Billion mouths, i.e. Food supply Self-sufficiency. How to stop Local governmental GDP boosting and vainity projects which are detrimental to the existence of arable lands and the destruction of the irrigation system. Farmers’ Land ownership? Urban entreprenuerial investment in rural farming projects?

    Can Someone write something on this subject? BXBQ? BUXI? Others?

  20. Michelle Says:

    Great pictures. I have been quite tied up at the office for the last week working long days and looking out the window at what I was missing. Weather has been faboo! I’m not sure if pollution is better (from my experience out on my bike, even blue sky days are chokers when you’re a@@ to elbow with exhaust pipes) but it’s sure been pretty. Beijing shines in Autumn.

  21. Charles Liu Says:

    Tommy, check the Chinese section, there are few articles on the subject. Yes there seem to be some contention about the direction of rural land reform in China.

  22. admin Says:

    @Kage Musha

    Thanks for the suggestion. Now you may pop up a thumbnail to display a bigger image, show those pictures as a slideshow, or even view them in full screen mode. Enjoy!

  23. Ms Chief Says:


    Sorry to be pedantic, but I thought I should correct an English mistake which is often made. The word ‘evidence’ is uncountable.

    Saying that though, if 1.3 billion Chinese learn to speak Chinglish, then English will become Chinglish and it would no longer be a mistake!

  24. wuming Says:

    @Ms Chief

    Thanks for the correction. Though it will hardly prevent me from making such mistakes again and again, until they become correct as you predicted.


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