The capital in a can


Last year WiC reported on a Canadian enterprise exporting bottled air to Beijing and offering residents a respite from the pollution that dogs the capital. It was the latest attempt to sell cans of fresh air in China, and one that we take some credit for: we’d pitched it as an April Fool’s joke back in 2011 (see issue 101).

More recently, a resident of the Chinese capital has decided to “push it the other way”, creating cans of Beijing Air for sale. And this time it does seems to be a bit of a joke, or at least a novelty gift. Dominic Johnson-Hill, a British expat and founder of the clothing brand Plastered 8, began selling Beijing Air this month for the bargain price of Rmb28 per can ($4). “They’re perfect gifts!” he enthuses. “What else are you going to take back when you go home from Beijing? A roast duck?”

Dominic isn’t just targeting foreign tourists: he’s promoting the ‘preserved pollution’ to the capital’s residents too, with the suggestion that they might miss the taste of Beijing’s air if they go abroad on holiday. Sales are supposedly doing quite well and some netizens have joined the joke, congratulating Beijingers on being able to breathe such expensive air for free.

Others have taken umbrage that an outsider is deriding one of China’s most pressing problems, while critics of the Briton have reminded him that London suffered from terrible smog not too long ago (a problem fixed in the 1950s). Fortunately for Johnson-Hill, he’s from smog-free Surrey.

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