Why I Moved (from Beijing) to Shanghai…

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 9:33
Posted in category The Big Picture

When I lived in Beijing in 2002-3, the first thing I would do is look out the window and decide whether or not I would go outside that day… or whether I would stay inside and have food delivered.

It was one of the reasons why I left the city, and in reading reports that officials are now admitting that the “fog” is actually smog makes me laugh…. As if anyone in their right mind would have ever thought that air that smells like burning chemicals could be fog.

A personal anecdote for me, but for Beijing, its residents, and its commercial interests, this “fog” and the haze that shrouds logical decision making about Beijing’s environmental stability is now a real threat to Beijing’s short and medium term economy and the health of its people.

To think some in the international press think that Beijing is leading the way at this week’s climate change discussions.

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4 Responses to “Why I Moved (from Beijing) to Shanghai…”

  1. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    December 7th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I live in Beijing and the air doesn’t “smell of burning chemicals”. However I can’t deny that at times the air quality can be very poor. But its not like that all the time – today (Thursday) is a beautiful clear day with blue skies and visibility for miles. The issue is partly to do with the fact that Beijing lies in a natural depression, and smog and bad air can just sit there until it gets blown out. The city is also relatively close to the Gobi Desert just to the North and that also affects the air quality with microscopic sand particles and dust getting everywhere.

    However, I’ve just returned from Ulaan Baatar (closer to Beijing than Shanghai is) where the temperature is minus 25 and the air really does taste of coal dust. And that said, having previously lived in Shanghai as you know very well Rich, the air quality there is not anything to wax lyrical about and can often be just as bad. No-one moves to Shanghai for clean air I can assure you of that. – Chris

  2. Rich says:

    December 7th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    hi Chris.

    Burning chemical smell is something I have experienced more than a handfew of times in Beijing. Not in the areas where you are, but south ring roads closer to the factories… when I was living in Beijing, it was really the coal/ construction dust that was largest contributor.

    UB – yeah – been there and done that.

    Worst city I have been to is Shantou (Guangdong).

    With regard to choosing a city over air quality, I would disagree. Particularly now that I have a 5 week old. Were I living in Beijing… I would have moved … and I would have moved to Shanghai. Shanghai has its bad days, but the WORST day I have ever seen here (2 days after EXPO) were nothing compared to the worst I saw in Beijing… and the average bad day here is the average good day in Beijing.

    That being said, I received an email from a good friend with 15 years in Shanghai, and they are leaving end of month. he has been looking for exit for several years, largely due to quality of life issues, and air quality was the big one for him….. and I have similar conversations on a regular basis with many others.

  3. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    December 8th, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    I also had a client with problems in Shekou, Shenzhen. A nearby paint factory poisoned his young som so much the the New Zealand doctors (although there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the kid) said he’d never get all the injested toxins out of his body for the rest of his life. The boy was five. Clearly, its a national problem. Beijing can be bad – but not always. I’ve just today received a colleague in Beijing (where the air the past few days has been very clear) from our Shanghai office and he says the weather is much better here than there. So what does this tell us? Pollution in China is right across the board, and that is varies from day to day and week to week, probably dependent on other factors such as weather systems inadvertantly helping clear it out or making it worse. But I for sure wouldn’t want to bring up a young child anywhere in China. Merry Christmas ! – Chris

  4. yinhai says:

    December 11th, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    for sure the bad days in Beijing can be far worse than the bad days in Shanghai, but the point shanghai has never had clear sky as blue as the ones beijing occasionally has. and in summer SH is too humid and in winter too cold… not many people move to SH for the air or weather I guess…