Two sessions a good time to clear the air

By Niall O Murchadha Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-5 20:23:01


Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT
Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

The last of the fireworks have been set off, the long migration back from home to the big cities has taken place, people have settled back into work, and I'm getting the first inkling that the temperature is picking up and soon my sweat-drenched body will be a source of amazement and disgust all over town. That means it must be time for the annual gathering of China's shakers and movers: the two sessions.

The meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress was usually something I only noticed in passing when I first arrived. There were the images of the beautiful traditional dress of some of the delegates on TV screens. The sight of a policeman having an afternoon snooze in his squad car evaporated at this time of year as law enforcement looked constantly alert, with a stiff posture, darting around on unknown security details.

Security on the subways always tightened up at this time of year, as young men were asked for their ID cards, and the mood generally was more focused.

But the one time I would really notice it would be when the roads were blocked off to allow a convoy of delegates to travel effortlessly through the city. Trying to avoid these road blocks became like a kind of game, with taxi drivers wistfully shaking their heads and laughing upon hearing your proposed destination.

Apparently this kind of thing is no longer in vogue, and now the vehicles of the delegates are not being afforded such special treatment this year. This can only be a good thing as it means the delegates will have to sit in the traffic everyone else sits in and just grin and bear it. If they choose to voice the opinion that it's not so bad after sitting in it all day then they will be entitled to their opinion.

From a Beijing point of view, there is one overriding concern that outweighs all others: the air quality situation.

When I first came to Beijing, I caused surprise among my fellow expats by declaring I preferred winter to summer, but when I pointed out that winter had clear blue skies unlike the haze of summer, I converted many to my point of view.

This winter, I bought my first mask with an air filter, and I resent the fact that I have to use it during the winter. Suddenly, my rationalization I make to family and friends at home that at least winter here has clean air no longer rings true.

One thing I've come to learn as a universal maxim is that politicians, regardless of where they come from, say certain things they don't necessarily end up doing. Economic policies and methods of improving efficiency make for nourishing fodder for political anoraks, but they tend to appear opaque to the general public. Ensuring next winter returns to the traditional blue skies is one way for the two sessions to show things are getting done.

Posted in: Metro Beijing, View Points, Environment

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