Daily Archives: September 26, 2008

The atmosphere was gloomy in Beijing this week – literally and metaphorically. When they weren’t worrying about poisoned baby milk (which is the scandal of the day), Beijing residents were complaining about the end of the traffic restrictions that were introduced just before the Olympics.

The city authorities kept the restrictions in force, even after the athletes departed. The rule was that only half the city’s cars could take to the roads on any single day – odd-numbered plates on one day, even-numbered the other. The effect was apparently dramatic. As one expat enthused to me – “You could breathe the air, you could see the mountains and you could hop into a taxi and get across the city in twenty minutes.” There was some official discussion about whether to keep the traffic restrictions in perpetuity. But the car-owning lobby won out.

And last Sunday it was back to traffic as normal. The locals I spoke to in Beijing were unanimous that they could feel the deterioration in the air quality immediately. Read more

I arrived at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin a couple of hours ago. Tianjin, a couple of hours up the road from Beijing, is a modest little place – just 11.2m inhabitants.

Being a loyal company man, one of the first things I did was to log onto the FT website to get the latest on the great meltdown. I thought the most eloquent single fact was that a story headlining the “biggest bank failure in US history” (Washington Mutual) was only the third headline. Headlines four and five were also fairly eye-popping – the German finance minister calling the end of America’s days as a financial superpower, and the withdrawal of billions of dollars from Morgan Stanley. Read more