It’s that time of the year again. As the Lunar New Year ushers in a stream of red lanterns and paper cut-outs, the sudden abundance of face masks in turn heralds the much maligned arrival of the ‘season of smog’. Earlier this month, 62% of cities across China were shrouded in toxic, syrupy air at least ten times that of the World Health Organisation’s air pollution guidelines, causing Beijing to declare red alert in 32 cities and even tell an air quality monitoring app to stop displaying readings above 500 AQI.
The haze has been the most talked-about subject on China’s social media this year. What has been noticeable from the tones on social feeds is how Chinese are showing less patience with each years’ Airpocalypse. Much like they have with consumer goods and services, China’s middle class’s expectations for fixing the pollution continue to grow with education, awareness and affluence.
Beijing knows it needs pollution to improve – and fast. It has implemented countless policies and punishments, stopped the worst polluting factories and vehicles, and this month, committed $360 billion to renewable energy by 2020.
China’s pollution is also driving consumers to spend their own cash, with sales of air purifiers and face masks on Tmall Global more than tripling last November as tens of millions prepared for the dirty skies of winter. The pollution has been a driver for more Chinese to holiday abroad, the main factor for many of China’s elites and, more recently, middle class families to migrate overseas and a contributor to spikes in ecommerce sales – keeping shoppers indoors.
Yet while Chinese consumers censure their country’s polluted air, most still appear to consider fixing it as the responsibility of the Government, taking little individual accountability. Whilst countless surveys have indicated Chinese like to support brands that help the environment, there is relatively little behaviour to support this from both consumers or brands. Very few brands selling online act sustainably – just look at the packaging. For car purchases, SUVs continue to be the fastest growing category accounting for 40% of all cars sold last year, compared to 21% in 2014. Educating and mobilising China’s 1.4 billion to do their bit for the environment through both habits and consumption would go a long way to reducing the number of red alerts.
On a brighter note, China Skinny is hiring. We’re looking for smart Chinese and Western staff with a good attitude and passion for China, with roles spanning junior to manager positions in our air-purified Shanghai office. More information here. Apply to join arguably the most intelligent, fun and best looking team in China, working on a fascinating array of projects that really make a difference for a great range of clients. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.