Since the summer of 2013, outdoor barbecues have been the subject of a continued elimination campaign, scapegoated as a significant contributor to Beijing's pollution problem. On May 1, new regulations went into effect that banned almost all methods of outdoor food preparation, including cold dishes, meaning that official opposition to grilling is at an all-time high. But why?

"Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at Peking University's School of Public Health, said the smoke from barbecues is a very common source of PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers [PM 2.5], and poses a serious threat to people's respiratory systems," reported  China Daily. But Pan isn't necessarily in the majority.

“I can’t believe that it’s actually a source [of PM2.5] that they need to worry about as compared with the enormous pollution that comes from motor vehicles, coal-fired power plants and big industrial factories,” Vance Wagner, a senior researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told The Wall Street Journal. Wagner added, “The idea that street vendors or regular consumers need to share that burden is just not fair, and it diverts attention from the real culprits. It’s such a shame, because outdoor barbecue is such a wonderful part of Beijing.”

Indeed. So why the public destruction of confiscated grills, the same kind of demonstration we saw with pirated CDs and DVDs that we saw in Beijing 10 years ago? Likely reason: easy target.

Reducing pollution in the short term is difficult, but action against chuan'r guys is quick and immediate. People in the neighborhood can see grills being dismantled or removed, Getting cars, and especially trucks, off the road? Good luck, especially with record traffic on the subway and subway prices set to go up in the second half of the year, neither of which will entice car owners to consider public transport. Closing factories in Hebei province? Also a nice idea, but given the job losses a factory closure incurs relative to one person losing their grill, and the grill is gone.

While new measures are being slowly implemented to move polluting elements away from Beijing, such as the construction of a new, massive ring road, for the summer, say goodbye to the local chuan'r guy.

Photo: AP/news.com.au


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