Money for nothing

Money for nothing

Sometimes it’s hard to separate China truth from fiction. Last year we capitalised on this conundrum with an April Fools’ Day issue (see WiC101) in which we ran a series of strange-but-true articles and then challenged readers to guess which was the prank story. The fictitious piece was about a Chinese businessman who’d decided to bottle Scottish air and then sell it in smoggy Beijing.

It may turn out that our story was not as ridiculous as we thought. That’s because this week the People’s Daily and other Chinese media is reporting on a new venture doing pretty much what we had only imagined.

Chen Guangbiao says he plans to can fresh air and sell it for Rmb5 a pop, claiming that breathing the invisible content is akin to using a hospital’s oxygen tank. Chen has already produced 100,000 cans, although it seems he is less interested in making big profits than making a point. He’s one of China’s more prominent philanthropists and plans to donate part of the proceeds to impoverished communities. But he says his main goal is to draw attention to the country’s poor air quality.

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