Planet China

Lungs and lenses

The smog enveloping China’s cities isn’t just an irritant to their inhabitants’ lungs. The government in Beijing is now concerned that pollution is a direct threat to national security. As the South China Morning Post reported in a front page story this week, the authorities are worried that its network of surveillance cameras is being rendered obsolete in smoggy conditions. When visibility in Harbin dropped below three metres last month, cameras could no longer penetrate the thick layer of fug. Security personnel now worry that terrorist groups from areas like Xinjiang might choose smoggy days to launch attacks across the country. The SCMP says the smogs can get so bad that even the latest infrared cameras are of little use, quoting an engineering expert with Shenzhen Yichengan Technology that the pea-soupers afflicting many Chinese cities are impenetrable to current camera technology. To this end, the government has funded two teams – one civilian and one military – to come up with a solution. The timeline is four years, suggesting that the authorities are resigned to the fact that city smogs are here to stay and likely to worsen

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