A few minutes ago, at 20:00 on Saturday evening, Beijing’s air pollution again hit hazardous levels. For expats working in China, they need to ask themselves: is living and working in a horribly polluted landscape worth the dangers?


Expats in China are used to the following:
a) Scratchy and itchy throats;
b) Headaches and sinus pains;
c) Watery eyes and stuffy noses.

Those health maladies become so common in Beijing, expatriates living and working in China’s capital city don’t even think about the problems anymore — they learn to live with the issues.

20 years ago when China entered the world sytage and starting booming business, environmentalists outside of China warned China that the success of the “China model” would cause widespread eco-devastation. But China at the time said, “You Western countries were allowed to grow and had your own eco problems, so you should allow us the same opportunity to grow too.” Unfortunately, we now see that greed, avarice, and blindness on the part of communities in China has created an environmental wasteland in the country’s capital city.

Expats who come to work in China usually love Chinese culture, so it is even more depressing to see how bad Beijing’s environment has become. One expat on our forum at ChinaExpats.com complained recently that his parents were from China and always spoke highly of the country, but now that he returned to his ancestral homeland, he was embarrassed that the ignorance about the role of pollution as changed Beijing into an uninhabitable place.

Living in China and Beijing have become much more difficult in the past decade. Inflation has made buying goods like groceries more expensive than New York City. Buying goods for children is dangerous because product quality is dubious in China. And traveling on the raods in beining is bad because of lack of skilled drivers, poor police oversight of traffic rules, and too many cars. And now pollution is the “cherry on top of the sundae” that makes living in Beijing so terrible.

So many expats are leaving Beijing for nicer places like Hangzhou and smaller cities in the Western parts of China. But even there, if factories are many, pollution can still be bad. And those that have companies in Taipei or Hong Kong are also fleeing for those cities in a bid to gain better environments in which to grow.

Beijing is China’s capital city, of course, and it is a shame that this showpiece is such a wasteland now.