By Feichang Wuran
BEIJING (China Daily Show) — Leaded water, an absence of wildlife and thick, syrupy air are all healthy signs of a flourishing economy, China’s Minister of Environmental Protection told an open-air audience at the Renmin University Center for Conservation and Sustainability on Monday.
“Heavy fog is a sign of strength,” Wang announced from inside a Bosch hermetic eco-chamber, considered standard issue for top-level urban cadres. “To paraphrase our late Supreme Leader: to pollute is indeed glorious.
“It doesn’t matter if the air if black or white – as long as you can breathe it,” he added to laughter.
The World Bank has estimated that, annually, some three-quarters of a million Chinese die prematurely due to pollution, while birth defects and surging cancer rates are common.
Indeed, health professionals are currently urging city-dwellers to stay indoors as much as possible and, where necessary, use face masks capable of filtering microscopic pollutants.
But Wang was quick to dismiss such views as Luddite scare-mongering.
“I was visiting a far West part of China recently. The birds were singing on the trees, yaks were grazing in fields as far as the eye could see; there wasn’t a factory or car in sight. It was depressing,” Wang Yulin began.
“In places like Tibet and Xinjiang, the regions and people there are very backward,” Wang admitted. “When I got back to Beijing, I stepped out of the airport and tears immediately sprang to my eyes.”
Wang’s speech inaugurated a new air-quality index (AQI) monitor, unveiled to replace the malfunctioning AQI reader used by the US Embassy in Beijing.
“The embassy’s faulty data has caused the American staff some embarrassment, due to foreign media reports,” said Professor Han Baisheng, head of environmental studies at the Central Party School. “So the experts have introduced this new method of saving face for our foreign friends.”
Beijing’s air was previously measured by a controversial standard that quantified it as “80% nitrogen, 5% oxygen, 15% GDP growth.” The new AQI will factor in such modern variables as visiting dignitaries, public holidays and national triumphalism.
“This will bring it in line with twenty-first century standards,” observed Professor Han.
Wang – at times barely visible behind a thick veil of steam – struck a strident note as he defended China’s heavy environmental degradation.
“We cannot be judged by their so-called ‘normal’ standards,” the Minister argued. “China has 5,000 glorious years of continuous polluting, the US hasn’t even 300.”
His logic was backed up by domestic scientists.
“The notion that ‘the air is blue’ is itself a form of ‘blue-sky thinking,’” Professor Han agreed. “It’s a Western ideal and there is, therefore, no actual evidence to suggest it’s true – or, if it is true, that it is also ‘right.’”
Response to Wang’s speech among some audience members was enthusiastic. “I’ve never been so proud of my asthma,” said Renmin University undergraduate Li Guangchen. “Every breath is a wheeze in the right direction.”
Meteorologists, meanwhile, have forecast a continuous concentration of hazardous particulate matter settling over the capital over the next few weeks.
“Here in Beijing, you can literally taste the progress,” Wang concluded, unzipping his eco-chamber, stepping onto the podium and inviting guests to “breathe in China’s continuous success.”
The country’s rapid development clearly proved too heady for the minister, however: Wang fell to his knees in what was later described as “an over-sincere bow.”
“The minister became choked with emotion,” an aide explained.
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