Shang­hai’s smog gives ex­pats sec­ond thoughts

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By MATT HODGES in Shang­hai matthe­whodges@chi­nadaily.

Record pol­lu­tion lev­els that saw Shang­hai en­gulfed by acrid smog on Fri­day caused flight can­ce­la­tions, short­ages of face masks and made some ex­pa­tri­ates re­con­sider their long-term plans to stay in the city.

“It’s hor­ri­fy­ing. I’ve never seen any­thing like this. I feel like I’ve had a con­stant hang­over for four days,” said Tom Du­va­lier of Chicago. “If you go down into the sub­way sys­tem, the same smell is in the air. It’s ev­ery­where.”

The air qual­ity in­dex mea­sured by the Shang­hai En­vi­ron­men­tal Mon­i­tor­ing Center stood at 482 as of 6 pm, while the US Con­sulate gauged it at 503 at 2 pm — a read­ing “be­yond the in­dex”. Lev­els above 300 are con­sid­ered “haz­ardous”.

It was the high­est level of pol­lu­tion recorded since Shang­hai set up its mea­sur­ing sys­tem last De­cem­ber, beat­ing records set on Mon­day and Thurs­day, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

The smog in Shang­hai fol­lows se­vere pol­lu­tion that af­fected Bei­jing and Harbin in Hei­longjiang prov­ince in re­cent months.

A Bri­tish ex­pa­tri­ate work­ing in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor in Shang­hai said: “The pol­lu­tion is the talk of the of­fice. Peo­ple are ask­ing if it’s can­cer­ous, re­mind­ing ev­ery­one to wear their face masks and say­ing that ba­bies should not be taken out­side.

“There are no masks left in 7-Eleven. They’ve sold out. Peo­ple are say­ing that if it con­tin­ues like this, they’re not sure if they want to stay here longterm.”

The Shang­hai me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal depart­ment fore­cast that a cold front from north­ern China will bring winds to blow the dust par­ti­cles out of the city by Mon­day.

To re­duce emis­sions, the mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties is­sued a no­tice in the af­ter­noon, halt­ing pro­duc­tion at some in­dus­trial en­ter­prises tem­po­rar­ily and at out­door con­struc­tion projects.

It also re­moved one in three gov­ern­ment cars from the roads. Shang­hai is one of a hand­ful of Chi­nese cities with more than 2 mil­lion cars.

The se­vere pol­lu­tion has trig­gered fears that com­pa­nies in the city will strug­gle to at­tract high-qual­ity over­seas tal­ent.

Some an­a­lysts feel it will de­ter for­eign com­pa­nies from in­vest­ing in the re­cently opened China (Shang­hai) Pi­lot Free Trade Zone, where eco­nomic re­forms are ex­pected to be tested.

Ioana Kraft, gen­eral man­ager of the Shang­hai of­fice of the Euro­pean Union Cham­ber of Com­merce in China, said, “While mem­bers leave for all sorts of rea­sons, we in­evitably hear nearly ev­ery time that one of the con­tribut­ing rea­sons is the air pol­lu­tion.”

Cana­di­ans Leslie Dol­man, who re­cently left her ad­min­is­tra­tive job at Xi’an Jiao­tong-Liver­pool Univer­sity in Suzhou, and her daugh­ter Lena are on a month-long tour of China.

“They asked me two months ago if I wanted to stay and this was one of the main rea­sons I de­clined,” Dol­man said. “But what sur­prises me is that China’s been quite open about it.”

No­tice­ably more Chi­nese and for­eign­ers were wear­ing masks in Shang­hai on Fri­day. But some younger Chi­nese who had been wear­ing masks all week aban­doned them in de­spair at how bad the sit­u­a­tion had be­come.

Yu Ran con­trib­uted to this story.

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