Expats to Abandon Smoggy Beijing?

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Expats to Abandon Smoggy Beijing?

As well as being China’s thriving cultural, political and educational centre, Beijing is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

The employment opportunities and cultural experiences Beijing can offer have drawn thousands of expats to the metropolis over the years, but many of these expats may abandon their adopted home over the next few years.

While thousands of expats, particularly those based in European nations, have returned home over the last few years in the face of the global economic downturn, the motivation behind the flight of Beijing expats is not so much economical as environmental.

Beijing is as infamous for its smog as its Peking duck, but after a winter of terrible air pollution the situation may become so unbearable that it triggers an expatriate exodus.

According to businesses and senior executives who have connections with Beijing’s expatriate community, foreign residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the affect the cities chronic pollution levels are having on their health, and this last few months of particularly horrendous smog has proven the final straw for some.

Recent readings of Beijing’s air, focusing on the most dangerous forms of toxic smog, have come in at over 40 times more than the World Health Organisation recommends.

And just last week a survey conducted by a group of Chinese universities showed that in 2010 1.2 million premature deaths occurred in China as a direct result of outdoor air pollution.

But with the government suppressing information regarding the real impact of Chinese air pollution on the population the real figure could be even higher.

Deutsche Bank has estimated that if the current situation continues, the air quality in China will worsen by 70 per cent over the next 12 years.

Consequently, leaving Beijing has become a major discussion topic on Chinese twitter-equivalent Weibo.

One Weibo user recently stated: ‘One of my close colleagues has finally escaped Beijing. With expensive housing, expensive goods, terrible pollution and expensive healthcare, he decided to run off to a city where the pressure will be much less – London.’

However, the increasing number of expats abandoning lucrative employment opportunities in order to escape Beijing’s pollution (coupled with the rising anger of the local population) could encourage the Chinese government to implement some long overdue environmental policy changes.

There has already been a step in the right direction with New Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledging to tackle pollution. In March Li Keqiang vowed: ‘We will punish offenders without mercy and enforce the law with an iron fist. It’s no good to be poor in a beautiful environment but nor is it any good to be well off and left with the consequences of environmental degradation.’

So what do you think?

Could you put up with extreme environmental pollution in order to secure well paid employment?

Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment in the forum!

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