BEIJING – China’s environmental watchdog on Monday ordered greater efforts to issue early warnings for air quality, as hazardous air pollution has hit many parts of the country in recent days.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a circular asking local authorities to step up analysis on air pollution trends and publicize information via mass media outlets in a timely manner.
The ministry called for greater efforts to control emissions by key industries and urged regional cooperation in handling air pollution in key areas, namely the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta region and the Pearl River Delta region.
BEIJING – For the fourth straight day, health authorities in multiple Chinese cities advised residents to stay indoors Monday, as a blanket of smog continued to choke much of China after recording “beyond index” levels this weekend at air quality monitoring stations run by the government and one run by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
The capital and 32 other cities suffered “hazardous” air this weekend, local media reported, swelling hospitals with patients reporting respiratory and heart problems. Face masks sold quickly at pharmacies, and some airports and highways suffered delays and closures amid greatly reduced visibility.
But the government’s increased disclosure of pollution data, and the state media’s blanket coverage of the crisis, encouraged some Chinese environmentalists to see a silver lining amid the clouds darkening the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, where the priority of fast economic growth routinely swamps environmental concerns.
Unlike in previous years, China’s citizens now enjoy greater access to official information about the filthy air they breathe. After public pressure, city governments have in the past year begun releasing measurements of PM2.5, tiny airborne particulates that pose the greatest health risks. On Saturday, parts of Beijing recorded PM2.5 levels more than 900 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization regards 25 micrograms per cubic meter a safe daily level.
Unusually, China’s media have covered the problem in extensive detail over the past three days, including the state broadcaster CCTV, the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper and popular tabloids in many cities, while websites offered real-time reporting of pollution data.
The pollution is the worst in Beijing since the municipal government started disclosing PM2.5 early last year, said Ma Jun, founder of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing non-profit. “It’s also the first time that the Chinese public can access real-time monitoring data, so they understand it’s not fog, it’s smog,” he said. That disclosure, plus the awareness-building of widespread media and Internet coverage, “hopefully make this a first step towards trying to regain the blue sky,” Ma said.
Pollution has long been a sensitive issue in China. In the past, “we said at international meetings that environmental pollution was the inevitable outcome of capitalism” but did not occur under socialism, environmental law expert Wang Canfa wrote on the Sina Weibo microblogging site Sunday. Today, China’s health ministry must investigate the death rate over recent days, mindful of London’s deadly smog in 1952 that sparked lasting environmental change in the U.K., he said.
Wang Yongchen, founder of the non-profit Green Earth Volunteers, lauded the spread of environmental knowledge, especially online. “Before, the government would say ‘today the weather is good’, even if it’s not. Now not only the government, but the US Embassy and non-governmental organizations also want to give information. When people know more, they can help themselves against the big factories, and they are now asking ‘why is China so polluted?'” she said Sunday.
Companies often flout China’s environmental laws because of lax enforcement, weak penalties and a prevailing attitude of “if I have money I can do anything,” Wang said. But several successful public protests in the past year against polluting projects leave her hopeful that China is achieving “democracy through environmental issues.” If enough parents get together to complain about pollution that traps their children indoors, “the government must do something,” she said.
Housewife Wang Qinfeng, 35, bought several cotton and disposable paper masks in east Beijing on Sunday and planned to make her 10 year-old daughter wear one to school Monday. “I’ve felt uncomfortable breathing since yesterday, I can’t even see the building just opposite me,” she said. “I’m afraid my girl will breathe in polluted air. I’m glad the news said schoolchildren won’t have outdoor activities. But I wish the government could do more, not just issuing PM 2.5 statistics, but reducing air pollution nationwide. Beijing is not a lonely island. If Beijing’s air is clean in the future, but (surrounding) Hebei Province has bad air, we still can’t escape,” said Wang.
The heavy pollution, caused by coal burning, heavy industry and vehicle emissions, will continue until winds expected Wednesday dispel this haze that is trapped by cold weather, city authorities said. “I’ve never seen pollution as bad as this,” sighed optician Zhao Yumei, 55, in central Beijing, who asked her octogenarian parents to stay indoors this weekend. “I know the government has taken some action, like moving away heavy industry and restricting car use, but it’s not enough,” she said. “The government and society paid a lot of attention to air pollution before the (2008) Olympic Games, but I feel they don’t pay as much attention to it now.”
Contributing: Sunny Yang
Fernando Lugris of Uruguay, who chairs the negotiations, said the six-day conference that has drawn almost 900 delegates and dozens of non-governmental organizations from around the world already has agreed on a draft text to be used this week for negotiations.
The U.N. environment program reported last week that mercury pollution in the top layer of the world’s oceans has doubled in the past century, part of a man-made problem that will require international cooperation to fix.
The report by the U.N. Environment Program, which is helping to sponsor the treaty talks, showed for the first time that hundreds of tons of mercury have leaked from the soil into rivers and lakes around the world.
Communities in developing countries face increasing health and environmental risks linked to exposure to mercury, which comes from sources such as coal burning and the use of mercury to separate metal from ore in small-scale gold mining, the U.N. agency says.
About 70 countries are involved in so-called artisanal gold mining, putting up to 15 million miners at risk of exposure to mercury, including 3 million women and children, said David Piper of the U.N. Environment Program.
But the risk of mercury exposure in gold mining “cannot be solved through a ban,” said Perrez, who called that aspect of the negotiations “a special situation” that requires a more complex approach.
January 13, 2013 – CHINA – China recently upgraded its subway system in Beijing and revealed that its mass transit was hardened to withstand nuclear blasts or chemical gas attacks in a future war, state-run media reported last month. The disclosure of the military aspects of the underground rail system followed completion and opening of a new subway line in the Chinese capital Dec. 30, along with the extension of several other lines. The subway upgrade is part of an effort to ease gridlocked traffic in the city of 20 million people. According to Chinese civil defense officials quoted Dec. 5 in the Global Times, a newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, the subway can “withstand a nuclear or poison gas attack.” A U.S. official said the disclosure of the subway’s capabilities to withstand attack is unusual, since it highlights Beijing’s strategic nuclear modernization program, something normally kept secret from state-controlled media. The strategic nuclear buildup includes the expansion of offensive nuclear forces, missile defenses, and anti-satellite arms. China is building new long-range mobile missiles, including the DF-41, and plans to deploy up to eight new ballistic missile submarines. Reports from Asia indicate the Chinese military is also planning to build new long-range strategic nuclear bombers. Russia too is expanding its nuclear forces with new submarines and missiles. Moscow announced last year that it is also constructing some 5,000 underground bomb shelters in Russia’s capital in anticipation of a possible future nuclear conflict. By contrast, the U.S. government has done little to bolster civil defense measures, preferring the largely outdated concept of mutual assured destruction that leaves populations vulnerable to attack and building only limited missile defenses that the Obama administration has said are not designed to counter Chinese or Russian nuclear strikes. The Obama administration instead is seeking deep cuts in U.S. nuclear forces as part of President Barack Obama’s policy of seeking the elimination of all nuclear arms. According to the Global Times report, the new subway lines were “designed to be used in the event of an emergency, for underground evacuation from one station to another, emergency shelter, and storage for emergency supplies.” A military engineer identified only as Hu and as part of the Chinese military’s Second Artillery Corps, which builds and deploys China’s nuclear arsenal, helped design the civil defense aspects of the subway. Special steel-reinforced gates installed on all subway tunnels and used to separate stations are one key feature of the reinforced subway. Hu said it is designed to protect people who seek shelter during a heavy storm, toxic gas attack, or a nuclear strike. “The station has three hours of breathable air after the gates are closed, isolating the station from the outside world,” Hu was quoted as saying. “Although each gate weighs around 7 tons, it takes just three minutes for two adults to open or close it manually,” she said. The new blast gates were introduced into subway construction projects in 2007. A second Chinese official, identified in the report as Liang, said each subway also has an air filtration system in case of a chemical weapons gas attack. The system is designed to keep air flowing into the station. “People can actually shelter in the subway for more than three hours because of this system,” Liang said. Above-ground subway exits also can be sealed during an attack, Liang said, using heavy blast doors concealed behind temporary walls. Additional civil defense barriers and doors are being installed in the Beijing subway later, according to Cao Yanping, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Civil Air-Raid Shelter. Jiang Hao, a Chinese military engineer from the 4th Engineer Design & Research Institute of General Staff Department, told the newspaper that blast gates already are in use in cities such as Nanjing, in Jiangsu Province, and Shenyang, in Liaoning Province. “The new facilities also have other defensive capabilities like emergency communication equipment at each station, which makes effective communication possible during a conflict,” Jiang Hao, the engineer, told reporters in Beijing. China’s network of underground tunnels for nuclear weapons and missiles was disclosed only recently, and highlighted in Georgetown University’s Asian Arms Control Project, dubbed it China’s “Great Underground Wall.”
January 11, 2013
If there were ever a sign that something is amiss, this may very well be it.
United Nations agricultural experts are reporting confusion, after figures show that China imported 2.6 million tons of rice in 2012, substantially more than a four-fold increase over the 575,000 tons imported in 2011.
The confusion stems from the fact that there is no obvious reason for vastly increased imports, since there has been no rice shortage in China. The speculation is that Chinese importers are taking advantage of low international prices, but all that means is that China’s own vast supplies of domestically grown rice are being stockpiled.
Why would China suddenly be stockpiling millions of tons of rice for no apparent reason?
Perhaps it’s related to China’s aggressive military buildup and war preparations in the Pacific and in central Asia.
If a 400% year-over-year increase in rice stockpiles isn’t enough to convince you the Chinese are preparing for a significant near-term event, consider that in Australia the country’s two major baby formula distributors have reported they are unable to keep up with demand for their dry milk formula products. Grocery stores throughout the country have been left empty of the essential infant staple as a result of bulk exports by the Chinese.
A surge in sales of one of Australia’s most popular brands of infant formula has led to an unusual sight for this wealthy nation: barren shelves in the baby aisle and even rationing of baby food in some leading retail outlets.
We’d be more apt to believe the Chinese were panic-buying baby formula had the Chinese milk scandal occurred recently. The problem is that it happened four years ago. Are we to believe the Chinese are just now realizing their baby food may be tainted?
In addition to the apparent build-up in food stocks, the Chinese are further diversifying their cash assets (denominated in US Dollars) into physical goods. In fact, in just a single month in 2012, the Chinese imported and stockpiled more gold than the entirety of the gold stored in the vaults of the European Central Bank (and did we mention they did this in one month?).
Their precious metals stockpiles have grown so quickly in recent years that Chinese official holdings remain a complete mystery to Western governments and it’s rumored that the People’s Republic may now be the second largest gold hoarding nation in the world, behind the United States.
We won’t know for sure until the official disclosure which will come when China is ready and not a moment earlier, but at the current run-rate of accumulation which is just shy of 1,000 tons per year, it is certainly within the realm of possibilities that China is now the second largest holder of gold in the world, surpassing Germany’s 3,395 tons and second only to the US.
But the Chinese aren’t just buying precious metals. They’re rapidly acquiring industrial metals as well.
Spot iron prices are up to an almost 15-month high at $153.90 per tonne. The rally in prices, which started in December 2012, is mainly due to China’s rebuilding of its stockpiles as the Asian giant gears to boost its economy, which in turn, could improve steel demand.
The official explanation, that China is preparing stockpiles in anticipation of an economic recovery, is quite amusing considering that just 8 months ago Reuters reported that China had an oversupply, so much so that their storage facilities had run out of room to store all the inventory!
When metals warehouses in top consumer China are so full that workers start stockpiling iron ore in granaries and copper in car parks, you know the global economy could be in trouble.
At Qingdao Port, home to one of China’s largest iron ore terminals, hundreds of mounds of iron ore, each as tall as a three-storey building, spill over into an area signposted “grains storage” and almost to the street.
Further south, some bonded warehouses in Shanghai are using carparks to store swollen copper stockpiles – another unusual phenomenon that bodes ill for global metal prices and raises questions about China’s ability to sustain its economic growth as the rest of the world falters.
Now, why would China be stockpiling even more iron (and setting 15 month price highs in the process) if they had massive amounts of excess inventory just last year?
Something tells us this has nothing to do with an economic recovery, or even economic theory in terms of popular mainstream analysis.
Why does China need four times as much rice year-over-year? Why purchase more iron when you already have a huge surplus? Why buy gold when, as Federal Reserve Chairmen Ben Bernanke suggests, it is not real money? Why build massive cities capable of housing a million or more people, and then keep them empty?
It doesn’t add up. None of it makes any sense.
Unless the Chinese know something we haven’t been made privy to.
Is it possible, in a world where hundreds of trillions of dollars are owed, where the United States indirectly controls most of the globe’s oil reserves, and where super powers have built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and spent hundreds of billions on weapons of war (real ones, not those pesky semi-automatic assault rifles), that the Chinese expect things to take a turn for the worse in the near future?
The Chinese are buying physical assets – and not just representations of those assets in the form of paper receipts – but the actual physical commodities. And they are storing them in-country. Perhaps they’ve determined that U.S. and European debt are a losing proposition and it’s only a matter of time before the financial, economic and monetary systems of the West undergo a complete collapse.
At best, what these signs indicate is that the People’s Republic of China is expecting the value of currencies ( they have trillions in Western currency reserves) will deteriorate with respect to physical commodities. They are stocking up ahead of the carnage and buying what they can before their savings are hyper-inflated away.
At worst, they may very well be getting ready for what geopolitical analyst Joel Skousen warned of in his documentary Strategic Relocation, where he argued that some time in the next decade the Chinese and Russians may team up against the United States in a thermo-nuclear showdown.
Hard to believe? Maybe.
But consider that China is taking measures now, in addition to their stockpiling, that suggest we are already in the opening salvos of World War III. They have already taken steps to map our entire national grid – that includes water, power, refining, commerce and transportation infrastructure. They’re directly involved in hacking government and commercial networks and are responsible for what has been called the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. Militarily, the PRC has been developing technology like EMP weapons systems, capable of disabling our military fleets and the electrical infrastructure of the country as a whole, and has been caught red-handed manufacturing fake computer chips used in U.S. Navy weapons systems.
If you still doubt China’s intentions and expectations, look to other governments, including our own, for signs that someone, somewhere is planning for horrific worst-case scenarios:
Perhaps there’s a reason why former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has warned, “those who can, should move their families out of the city.”
As Kyle Bass noted in a recent speech, “it’s just a question of when will this unravel and how will it unravel.”
Given how similar events have played out in history, we think you know how this ends.
Governments around the world are stockpiling food, supplies, precious metals and arms, suggesting that there is foreknowledge of an impending event.
Should we be doing the same?
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