The past few weeks have seen smog rising to dangerous levels in the North of China, with the red alert system being used for the first time in its two year history on Monday 7th December. Coal fired power stations, construction work taking place in the province and increasing vehicle emissions are being cited as the cause of the crisis. The population of major cities such as Beijing found themselves buried under a thick layer of dense air, placing restrictions on construction projects and closing some schools. Factories have been asked to halt working work until Thursday at noon. Restrictions on traffic were also imposed, with 3690 traffic violations reported by the local police force within 24 hours of the red alert being in force. Unannounced nightly inspections have been carried out to make sure businesses are complying with the short term regulations in place.
Health concerns across the city
Fears of health implications, particularly for young people, the elderly and infirm have caused panic buying of face masks and air purifiers, with parents increasingly concerned about the negative effects of the pollution on their children’s health. Some stores have been accused of largely inflating prices from the crisis, rapidly increasing the prices of facemasks over the past weeks while demand is so high. It has been estimated that anywhere up to 1.6 million people in China die prematurely each year due to the effects of the tiny carbon particles which thicken the air, causing irritation to the lungs, and compounding symptoms of those suffering already with bronchial health conditions such as asthma.
Fears for the future
Frustrated young people turned to the social networking site Weibo to share their stories and smog-mask selfies, air their frustrations at lack of forthcoming government assistance and their fears for the future generations. While the Chinese government has pledged to reduce levels of airborne pollutants released from the country’s coal powered energy sources by 60% from next year through upgrades of existing plants, many have voiced concerns to the consequences of an already damaged environment. It is estimated the latest occurrence of smog has impacted the lives of more than 300 million people in some way.
Condoms, Medicine and Exercise-Wear
One of the more curious insights into the population’s response to the crisis was detailed in the release of online shopping purchases data by shopping platform taobao.com, reported ChinaDaily.com. While the affected population were advised to limit themselves to all but essential outdoor activities, an increase in the purchase of condoms in cities heavily affected by smog was noted, giving some suggestion to how some were planning to spend time while the dark skies linger heavily over the city. Health related items such as medicines and exercise-wear also showed sharp increases, perhaps a notion of how China will choose to focus on a healthy recovery period once the air begins to clear. Schools which have chosen to remain open have invested time in creating plans for children to remain active during this time.
The Chinese character for crisis is made up of two characters: “danger” and “opportunity”. This probably isn’t what historians were thinking, but when one door closes, another door opens (the bedroom door, apparently). Reaching China’s netizens with smog is one thing, but there are a lot of other great examples of how to reach China’s consumers in a positive way over on Resonance’s website. Check it out.