The PM2.5 Ninja, we’re not here to steal Ming Dynasty relics or commit espionage, we’re here to work. We come from various countries and various industries and in order to participate in the burgeoning revolution that is China, we adorn the mask, the mask that protects us from those pesky particulate matters smaller than 2.5 micrometers, which have the capability of entering the blood stream. Most expats can relate to this, heck I even see tourist’s fresh off the plane adorning the mask.
The truth is that the air quality is not always that bad in China, but the media loves to relish in the fact that the 3rd world and 1st can be most clearly bifurcated by the quality of air, I like to think of it as a draw distance. I remember the progression of video games from early PlayStation to present and the draw distance, or how far into the distance you could actually see was where a lot of the graphical progression occurred. It’s oddly mind bending to travel back and forth between China on a monthly clip, your mind is boxed in while in China as the draw distance shrinks and expands upon return to the US as the draw distance returns.
My last trip sent me from the East to the Western parts of China, back and forth several times and I observed something that I have never observed before in the last 4 years, pretty much clear skies and low pollution levels country wide. Now I’m not talking Sierra Mountain crystal clear, maybe more like Los Angeles on its worst days, but that is a huge improvement! So the next question of the unmasked Ninja is naturally, where o where have the factories gone? Many factories are off the grid and operate on their own coal stack power plants and I have only seen this level of nationwide air quality improvement around Chinese New Year when all of the factories go on vacation. The manufacturing indexes out of China cannot be telling the whole story, no matter how dire it seems it might be a tad worse. Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia this is most likely the answer to my inquiry. For now the masks are off and the draw distance is restored, I honestly had no idea that Beijing is surrounded by beautiful mountains, oh how glorious it is! I can see again.