How I survived China

Great article sent by a friend in DC on the health hazards of living in China. A few things that stuck out:

1 – Micro-particulate pollution – in terms of the human cost, this is more concerning than CO2:

Another way to know this is via a clandestine air-quality station that the U.S. Embassy has built in Beijing. The Chinese government does not report, and may not even measure, what other countries consider the most dangerous form of air pollution: PM2.5, the smallest particulate matter, tiny enough to work its way deep into the alveoli. Instead, Chinese reports cover only the grosser PM10 particulates, which are less dangerous but more unsightly, because they make the air dark and turn your handkerchief black if you blow your nose. (Spitting on the street: routine in China. Blowing your nose into a handkerchief: something no cultured person would do.) These unauthorized PM2.5 readings, sent out on a Twitter stream (BeijingAir), show the pollution in Beijing routinely to be in the “Very Unhealthy” or “Hazardous” range, not seen in U.S. cities in decades.

2 – Despite the pollution, it is a exciting and energizing place to be:

The positive aspect is, there’s a lot to take your mind off your health. “I am amazed at how well people do here, considering,” another Western-trained doctor said. “It is an exciting place. It’s a historic time. People seem to feel alive.” That made sense when I heard it—in China I had felt terrible, but alive—and makes me say that foreigners who want to go should not be deterred.

3 – Drink beer:

…I naively drank bottled water in a Buddhist-run vegetarian restaurant—and on the way out saw a waiter filling the “Evian” bottles from a hose.

Point 1 is dead on – the air is toxic – but the trade off (for expats anyway) is Point 2. The minute I landed in Singapore in 1994 I knew I had found my path. Asia, and Chinese Asia in particular, became my focus. It is still exciting today. I imagine London in the Victorian era, NYC in the 1920’s, LA in the 1950’s, etc., were also as exciting (and polluted). Can China fix this? Of course, and they will as their economy develops. As I’ve said before, modern environmentalism is a luxury good.

Mike Bellamy went to Asia the same time I did, and he’s been there full time since 1998, and the excitement has not worn off. Most of the expats on the PassageMaker team have put down roots. We have real bricks-and-mortar in place. So if you need something done in China, rest assured that we are experienced and motivated to make your project a success.

And Point 3? Beer, especially from the large export breweries (many foreign owned), is safe to drink, because it is bottled, capped, carbonated and alcoholic. Chinese beer is served in large recyclable bottles, but the nature of the brewing and bottling process means that if it makes it to your table, it’s clean. All the water is purified as the first step in brewing, otherwise you foul the fermentation. Were it biologically contaminated, it would result in a burst bottle from the build up of gasses. Also, Chinese beer is relatively low in alcohol, so having a beer with lunch is not going to ruin the rest of your day.

When in doubt, have a beer.

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