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it was worse in the past. air quality was better in beijing in 2003 than it was in 1997, and a friend living there now assures me that, while utterly toxic, it seems better to him than when we were there in 2003. it took me a couple weeks to hack out the shanghai air last summer, after a  month there.

i remember being in xi'an in 97, and having trouble seeing across a major intersection. of course, seoul was similarly opaque back then, and apparently it has much improved since. so there's still some hope for chinese air one day becoming breatheable.

the fact that 1/2 the water is unfit for drinking, and a quarter unfit for industrial use, is a bit more unsettling.

by wu ming on Sat Jul 31st, 2010 at 08:57:02 AM EST
though living here, i forgot it.

since 2007, i've lived in Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province, just south of Shanghai) for a year, and Chengdu (Sichuan Province, in the southwest of the country) for six months, and while i was appalled by the pollution in those two places on many an occasion, they did not compare to what i've seen here this summer.

Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes.

by marco on Sat Jul 31st, 2010 at 09:41:16 AM EST
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i was last in chengdu in '99, do they still have trees and old wooden buildings? it used to be a charming city, no idea if anything is left, you know how china is.

the really bad air is in poorer inland places, where they burn more coal: xi'an, changsha, chongqing, chengde, and most of the north china plain were all positively noxious. and, of course, beijing during a sandstorm is asphyxiating, if fun in a sort of apocalyptic sort of way.

by wu ming on Sun Aug 1st, 2010 at 10:55:30 AM EST
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I have a photo of just outside what was then called Peking, a farmer with his ox cart in a slightly rural scene and setting sun. And really foul, coal-dusty air, so that it's hard to see clearly.

That was taken in the late '70s.

by Mnemosyne on Sun Aug 1st, 2010 at 01:52:16 PM EST
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