When growth trumps life in China

When I wake up in the morning, I pause briefly before opening my curtains, and what I see out of my window is likely to set the tone for the rest of the day.
I am not checking up on the weather. Instead, I want to know exactly how bad the pollution is going to be.
On some mornings, it is truly appalling. It is as if the whole city has been turned into a smokers’ lounge with a yellowish, nicotine colour staining the sky.
And this month, pollution in Beijing went from bad to… well, dangerous. Air pollution soared past levels considered hazardous by the World Health Organisation (WHO). A quick disclaimer here – I was actually on the sunny island of Hainan breathing in fresh sea air, when the smog hit the capital.
But back in Beijing, hospitals were overrun by the young and the old, suffering from respiratory problems. People were warned to stay indoors. The capital’s streets were unusually quiet. Sales of air purifiers for homes – as well as face masks – rocketed and some stores simply ran out. Even for a city that is used to pollution, this was an emergency.
After my return to the capital, you could still taste the pollution, you can see it, and for that reason, the authorities can no longer deny it.
For years, they have tried. The government often played down the pollution in the capital, insisting it was merely fog, despite evidence to the contrary that was plain for all to see.