APEC Blue sky – my photo of Tien an Men Square during APEC. Pure luck. © PJ Croft 2014

From The Guardian 18 December 2014

“The volume of discontent [about Beijing’s air pollution] has been rising since Beijingers got a chance to see exactly what clear blue skies looked like last month [November], when miraculous weather was laid on for visiting world leaders, in town for the high-profile Apec summit. With the kind of draconian measures unseen since the 2008 Olympics, the entire region was locked down to guarantee clear skies for the precious week. Production in all factories within a 125-mile radius of the city was suspended, half the cars were banned from the roads, schools were closed, and public-sector workers were given compulsory holidays. No weddings were registered, no passports issued, no taxes paid, no fresh products delivered, and no banks open. Bodies went uncremated and burials were partly suspended.”

“The result? A climatic Potemkin facade of perfect blue skies – which soon became an internet meme, coining the term “Apec blue”.

“ ‘It’s not sky blue or ocean blue. It’s not Prussian blue or Tiffany blue,’ wrote one user of the microblogging site, Weibo. ‘A few years ago it was Olympic blue, and now it’s Apec blue.’ It quickly came to mean something of fleeting, artificial beauty, probably too good to be true. “He’s not really into you,” went one recurring online saying. “It’s just an Apec blue.”

“Returning to Beijing during the Apec week was like arriving in a completely different city. What had been a ghostly world of streets that disappeared if more than a block away, became a wide-open place of grand avenues terminating at distant mountains, visible for the first time.

“And back at the British School, the smog dome was empty. Pupils were enjoying a rare outdoor lesson beneath a different kind of artificial roof – the crystal clear canopy of Apec blue.”


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