Two kinds of haze afflict, with appalling consequences, the people of China:
1) The unmitigated haze of pollution spewed daily by power plants, factories, and automobiles that clouds the atmosphere and is estimated to kill at least 10,000 Chinese per year, and
2) The oppressive “red haze” of communism spewed daily by a government that clouds reality in the eyes of Chinese citizens and the rest of the world by shaping the flow of information and falsifying everything from government statistics to Olympic fireworks displays.
During these Olympics China is using the latter to hide the former.
The satellite image below, taken in June, shows a suffocating haze of pollution shrouding Beijing and the entire area to the south in a uniform shade of brownish gray (skies appear relatively clear to the north and regular clouds appear bright white). This is a typical day in and around Beijing, where residents are often warned to spend as little time as possible outdoors because the atmosphere is a veritable pea soup of toxic gases.
We already know that China is very concerned about creating a perfect image – or, as it were, a mirage – during these Olympics (e.g., digitally enhanced fireworks, lip syncing singers, and “official” crowds to fill the stands). So it isn’t surprising that as China prepared to host the Olympics, they put “special pollution controls” into effect: Except for taxis and Olympic vehicles, automobiles were banned on alternate days, depending on whether their license plates ended in odd or even numbers. Most construction was banned in Beijing, and factories were shut down in Beijing and the neighboring cities of Tianjin and Tangshan.
These restrictions are expected to last for two months – just long enough to fool the world during the Olympics – and are reducing pollution. Here is an image of Beijing taken on July 21, after the restrictions were put in place. The haze drifting south from Beijing is relatively slight compared to June.
Bottom Line: China has temporarily reduced the haze of pollution, and in the process, demonstrated to the world that the “red haze” of communism is as thick as ever. I can’t decide which is worse, the fact the government can shut down whole industries and dictate when people can drive, or the fact that pollution will return to deadly levels just as soon as the Olympics are over?
Images from NASA Earth Observatory