Media reports saying that China's capital city is on the verge of becoming inappropriate for human habitation misled readers by exaggerating the findings of a report issued by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), one of the authors of the report has said.
The annual paper on the development of world cities, released on Wednesday, studied 40 metropolises in terms of economy, society, culture, urban management, ecology and city space.
By ranking the cities in these areas, the report aimed to provide upgrading advice for the cities, the author told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.
On the comprehensive ranking, Tokyo, London, Paris, New York and Singapore are the top five. Shanghai and Beijing rank 21st and 31st.
But media reports on the Internet Wednesday focused on Beijing's living conditions, quoting the report as saying Beijing ranked 39th among the 40 world cities in terms of ecological parameters. Beijing suffers from severe pollution, especially air pollution and smog.
The other two Chinese cities, namely Shanghai and Hong Kong, are also placed near the bottom of the city ecology ranking list, which places Stockholm at the top. Moscow is at the bottom mainly because of its harsh natural conditions, and long and bitterly cold winters.
Beijing also falls behind many in terms of public health and security, the report added, indicating inadequate public health services and a relatively high crime rate in Beijing. However, the city outranked all others in equality and ranked second in inclusiveness thanks to the lower Gini index of the city and easier access to public services.
"A city's livability also include other factors such as the rich spiritual and cultural life of the citizens and housing conditions. Beijing fell short in the latter with its high housing prices," Shan Jingjing, a research fellow of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
"Pollution could stall Beijing's efforts to upgrade its industries, since multinational corporations tend to establish their headquarters in cities with better ecological environments," Shan said.
Poor traffic conditions is another factor. Beijing saw nearly two-hour-long traffic jams every weekday in 2013, 25 minutes longer than 2012, the Beijing Daily reported on Wednesday.
Tu Qiyu, an author of the blue paper, said that the public reaction is understandable because Chinese cities were studied along with the top major cities in the world under stringent standards.
Shan said she believes Beijing could become a livable metropolis as development advances. She urged Beijing to optimize its industrial structure and strengthen controls on automobiles to curb pollution.
A new Beijing regulation on air pollution control will take effect from March 1, as the city vows to limit and gradually reduce the total discharge of major air pollutants under specific quotas and cut coal burning and limit car emissions with harsher penalties.
A 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) fund has been established this year to support emission controls for enterprises as well as a new energy automobile industry to further combat air pollution, the State Council announced on Wednesday.
It also said it would speed up energy restructuring and bring coal consumption under control.