Olympic air-quality: the experts speak

Caijing magazine is an indispensable Chinese publication, conveniently now with an English-language website. Its name, 财经, means economics and finance. Its editor, Hu Shuli, is one of the most influential women in China. She and her staff well understand that the one part of the Chinese media with considerable latitude to expose and reveal is the business press. They have consistently used a lot of the operating room this allows them.*

In the latest issue: news on the ever-tantalizing "can Beijing possibly clear up its air before the Olympics?" question. (Previously on this theme: here, here, here, here, and, in more encouraging mode, here.) The magazine interviews Zhao Fengtong, vice mayor of Beijing with responsibility for traffic and related issues. The Asian Wall Street Journal has an English version of the full interview (subscribers only) -- Caijing's English site has only a summary.

One fascinating highlight: Zhao discusses the recent experiment, discussed here, of banning half of Beijing's cars from the streets for two days, to see what difference it made. His analysis of the results is in a way a perfect two-part template for any answer by any government official in on-the-record interview. Part I: data-dump. Part II: party line. Ever wonder what it would be like to interview an official here? Wonder no more:

(Part I) During the four days of experimentation, the entire city saw a decrease of 1.31 to 1.36 million vehicles on the road. This produced immediate results in air-quality improvement. The scientific information obtained from this is very important; it has provided a scientific basis on which to improve and perfect measures to guarantee Beijing's air quality for the 29th Olympics, while at the same time acting as a great reference source for establishing a long-term system for managing and protecting the city's environment.

(Part II) We are confident we will be able to guarantee very good air quality during the 2008 Olympics.


* Disclosure: One of my sons worked at Caijing for several months during the SARS episode.