BEIJING GRAY

Goodbye “parade blue”—air pollution in Beijing is back to the unhealthy levels feared by residents

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

Chinese president Xi Jinping declared at his nation’s Sept. 3 military parade that justice, peace, and the people will prevail. But apparently, the blue skies in Beijing won’t.

Just a week before, residents were still amazed by the city’s rare blue skies, as the level of PM2.5—particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can lodge in the lungs—had reached a record low for eight days straight since Aug. 20. The so-called “parade blue” color—perfect for photographs—was ensured by strict government controls, which included banning cars and shutting down factories.

With the military parade over, Beijing ended such controls after midnight on Sept. 3 (link in Chinese). Thousands of factories and construction sites resumed operations. Cars are back on the roads, with about half of them having been restricted based on the time of the day and whether the last numbers of license plates were odd or even (link in Chinese).

So the air in Beijing is polluted again, less than 24 hours after the grand victory parade ended. By 10am today (Sept. 4) the city’s Air Quality Index hit the red-alarm “unhealthy” level, according to measurements from the US embassy.

Beijing residents are now sharing images of the city skies they’re used to seeing, on social media platforms like Sina Weibo and messaging apps like WeChat:

beijing_gray_weibo_renyunli
Gray again. (Image by Ren Yunli on Weibo)

“The reality and the ideal,” retired gymnast Li Xiaopeng wrote on Weibo this morning, posting pictures of the same bit of sky from different days:

http://photo.weibo.com/5110432155/albums
“The reality and the ideal.” (Images by Li Xiaopeng on Weibo)
http://photo.weibo.com/5110432155/albums

“Beijing has given its best blue skies to yesterday,” one blogger commented under his post.

One WeChat user in Beijing also posted images of the different sky colors, and expressed her sadness: “Yesterday it was still parade blue!”

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“Yesterday it was still parade blue!” (Images by WeChat user/used with permission)

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To be fair, the weather in Beijing called for rain today. But in any case, the odds of parade blue returning anytime soon seem slim.

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