back to article Smog-hit Beijing shows sunsets on a giant TV to remind people what the sun looks like

Citizens of smog-choked Beijing can watch a sunset on a massive LED display in Tiananmen Square, which will remind them of what the sun and sky look like. Sunset being televised in Beijing's Tiananmen Square due to heavy pollution Tiananmen Square's virtual sunset ... a reminder of better days "I couldn't see the tall …


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  1. John Tserkezis

    During the off-periods, outside of sunrise, sunset and other general alerts, they can show:

    "On this site, in 1989, nothing happened".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hmm masking the symptoms, not addressing the cause?


    you cant polish a turd?

    1. Paul_Murphy

      >you cant polish a turd?

      Sounds like you haven't even tried:

      Freeze it,

      Varnish it

      Polish it.

      Let us know how you get on :-)

    2. Cliff

      Can't polish a turd

      But you can roll it in glitter.

      1. Cliff

        Re: Can't polish a turd

        Reg comments are a funny place. Downvote for 'but you can roll it in glitter'. What part of that does the voter disagree with enough to press a button?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can't polish a turd

          "Reg comments are a funny place. "

          Have you just worked that out?

    3. Moeluk

      hmmmm...polishing a turd..

      have to say it does look a little like a windows 8.1 desktop background.

    4. Goldmember

      "you cant [sic] polish a turd"

      Yes you can. It was on Myth Busters.

    5. Naughtyhorse


      Not like the west's response to any environmental issues that may or may not be occurring :-)

  3. bob, mon!

    Those displays are BREATH-TAKING !!!!

    No, really, I'm gasping in delight (or de smog?)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it'll cost

    Unless they start doing something serious about the pollution in China they're going to discover the true macro economic cost in the next few years.

    1. Mephistro

      Re: it'll cost

      "they're going to discover the true macro economic cost in the next few years."

      It probably won't be an economic cost. They just will ignore/let die the victims and replace them. As Comrade Mao said once to Nikita Jruschev, "I don't mind losing a few million Chinese citizens. There's lots more where they came from." Or words to that effect, as I'm quoting from memory.

      1. Turtle


        That's why he was pushing for a nuclear war between the USSR and the USA: a nuclear apocalypse would bring the rest of the world down to China's economic level, but with China's massive population, more Chinese than anyone else would survive and enable China to surpass the rest of the world in a relatively short period of time.

        1. Mephistro

          @ Turtle (was Re: @Mephistro)

          True! And that's why Jrushchev immediately retired his support to the Chinese nuclear program.

  5. Gannettt

    With the record-breaking drought we're experiencing in California at the moment, there has been speculation as to whether all this pollution being generated in China is to blame for the changes in weather patterns. I keep an open mind, but seeing that awful pall, makes me think of the awful pall when the hills surrounding our city are ablaze with wildfires.

    1. swamptoad

      Hang Onto Your Hats

      I seldom replay to comments, but yours deserves merit. Climate change is the polite way of exclaiming climate ruin. The California fires you are witnessing are a result of a huge high pressure system parked near the coast. It is 4 - 5 miles high and 2000 miles long. This high (a year now) acts as a barrier to storm fronts (lows) that would otherwise dump rains/snows. Your 100 year record breaking drought is also a result of this phenomenon. At this point the climatologists don't have a clue as to its cause. Yes, I am sure the billions of us inhabiting our delicately balanced planet are behind most of the ruin. The Chinese perhaps are more at fault than others. We in the Midwest are experiencing a very cold and snowy winter. This happens! It's just been a while. What will be interesting is what our spring and summer will be like if the stalled front persists. Observing the increasing intensity of wind storms (of every variety) over the last few years, I am pessimistic about what we have probably set asunder. Should the Chinese cut back significantly on emissions, the devastation of an out of whack global climate will continue -- for many years. A hundred or more? Likely.

      1. MR J

        Re: Hang Onto Your Hats

        I am not sure if you two are trying to be Ironic or what.

        Blaming China for Americas ills, because China sends out more pollution...

        Keep in mind that things like Start-Stop, Hybrid, Compact, and All EV vehicles have been shunned by the US, so the largest market has dictated what was out there. Clean Coal and Clean Gas can both also be considered one of those blocked technologies by the US that has happily been passed on to the rest of the world.

        China air pollution is 27% higher than in the USA (per cap), The USA carbon output is 284% higher than China (per cap)..

        Keep in mind how much "American" product is made in China and then try to decide who the blame should really sit on.

        Yes, they should combat the issue.

  6. Duke2010

    My friend came back from Beijing for a short holiday and came back in a terrible state. Had to take time off work to recover from the pollution, red swollen eyes, trouble breathing. He tells me it really bad out there.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wool trilogy anyone?

    This is scarily reminiscent of the silo novels (wool/shift/dust). Silo dwellers have to look at a screen because the world is all dust clouds.

    A good read by the way.

  8. JasonLaw

    Not great

    In 1952, an estimated 4,000 people died in London as a direct result of a four-day smog event, with possibly another 10,000 made seriously ill. I'd hazard a guess that air pollution in many western European cities in the last century would make modern Chinese cities look like alpine meadows ...

    1. Spoonsinger

      Re: Not great

      Not sure why you got down voted other than the 'alpine meadow' bit.

      Yes European & US cities had smog confirmed deaths up to this point. The London one was just better documented, (most likely down to the newly formed NHS), and lead to the clean air act of 1956 - (way to go UK government in fixing a problem in prompt time, erm). Anyho, regardless of the tech they pump out on request, just think of the Chinese economy as being at a late 19th century stage - but with a bigger population, and less public verifiable documentation of causes of death.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Not great

      A few thousand dying immediately due to smog is not the same as hundreds of thousands, or millions having their health substantially damaged longer term. Work unprotected in an asbestos factory and you'd not immediately die either. It might be the case that everyone living in Beijing is losing decades from their lifespan.

  9. Jim84

    They are going to need to do something drastic soon perhaps. They should spend a bit more of that 250 billion on accelerating research of small modular nuclear reactors, or thorium molten salt reactors which can then be put into coal power stations to replace the burning of coal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Before leaping to the assumption that coal fire fueled power stations are at fault, perhaps that might first be established?

      For all I know it is dirty cars or something else that is the prime culprit.

      Damn, I am surprised people are not claiming it is due to CO2 increases ...

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Before leaping to the assumption that coal fire fueled power stations are at fault, perhaps that might first be established?"

        They're not. Most have smokestack scrubbers (but there are better reasons for phasing them out) and use high quality imported Australian coal.

        Modern chinese cars have clean exhausts too (Modulo shitty old diesels).

        The real issue (as with London up to 1956) is domestic fires - most of which are coal fired, unmonitored, uncleaned and hellaciously filthy due to the low-quality local coal used.. If you live in Northern China you have a coal ration, for heating purposes - and taking that away without an acceptable replacement is going to cause ructions. (Domestic for this purpose includes coal-heated apartment blocks.)

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Scary indeed

    Could it be that the Chinese government has found the ultimate population control method? I'm being somewhat tongue in cheek but that's tempered with their one-child laws and various other things they've done to control their numbers.

    That air looks worse than what I've seen here on the west coast of the US (I'm actually north of California) during fire season. And the those numbers are horrifying.

    1. chris lively

      Re: Scary indeed

      Although quite sad, I think you're right. This will have some serious long term effects on the populations in and around those cities.

    2. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Scary indeed

      It's eugenics in action. Humans who can breathe and thrive in the smog will be preselected for the Titan colony program.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Say... why does the internet cut off every time I try to baidu the location of the virtual sunset?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sure, but think how glorious it must be to have avoided all those job-killing regulations! I'm sure that any right-thinking American (ahem) would trade long-term health and niggling little socialist details like being able to take your children outdoors or ever seeing the sun again in exchange for the two or three percent GDP boost you enjoy for a few years until the healthcare costs cancel it out!

    Everyone repeat after me (until you believe it): "THE MARKETS WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM! THE MARKETS WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM! THE MARKETS WI--gack%&¥¢÷¶∆®COUGH hack ahem"

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Environmental protections are for hippies. If you're rich enough you can afford a great excursion suit for those rare times you have to leave your hermetically sealed vehicle, office or house. The markets do solve the problem: you just don't like the solution.

  13. Xiaofu


    The trafffic is only a small part of the pollution. Whilst it's true that the petrol is a lower/dirtier grade, the majority of Beijing's pollution wafts in from Hebei province where there's a lot of industry. I'm told that area is horribly polluted. But no sooner was the pollution index up to 600 than the winds have come and it's down to 112. That's passable for here. You can actually tell when the pollution sources are different from the PM2.5 and PM10 levels - you can usually smell it when the PM10 is high, but the PM2.5 is more insidious and is not always accompanied by visible smog.

    Saying "the air is often crap in Shanghai" is not really true though, at least up until last year. Traffic pollution can get a bit stinky in Puxi (the West side of the river) but I never really experienced really bad pollution until late last year, and that smelt odd and made me feel physically ill (and I have Beijing lungs!). Shanghai certainly has a lot of grey skies, but that's usually fog rather than smog.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Hebei

      Coal is going to be the biggest polluter, it always has been in Britain. Despite what some people smugly pronounce, we've had problems every bit as bad as China and the solutions look to be about the same.

      I am wondering about cars though, since the UK had environmental regulations on cars before they have had a chance to cause really major pollution. In China when you say that the petrol is a lower grade, do you mean that it's lower octane fuel boosted to more usual levels with large amounts of lead, or high sulfur content?

      I'm also wondering if you have any idea if western vehicles in huge concentrations just emit to high an amount of pollution, or if indigenous vehicles to China are built to less demanding standards (no catalytic converter's etc)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hebei

        "I'm also wondering if you have any idea if western vehicles in huge concentrations just emit to high an amount of pollution, or if indigenous vehicles to China are built to less demanding standards (no catalytic converter's etc)"

        I would be very much inclined to believe that all car manufactures build to the destination market standards so a Ford built for Californias strict emission laws is a very different beast to one built for China and likewise for everything else in between. Why would Ford or anyone else put expensive cat converts on a car being sold where that is not mandated and the fuel quality is likely to cause it to fail very soon anyway? They'd simply lose market share to companies prepared to cut costs.

        At the more luxury end of the market where cost is less of an issue, "green" features, like any other non-mandated feature are what differentiates the product but price is the primary factor for everyone else.

      2. Xiaofu

        Re: Hebei

        It's got high sulphur content. The current standards in Beijing dictate <50ppm (assuming the petrol companies are really supplying petrol that meets these standards), with the future standards calling for <10ppm. Passenger vehicle emission standards have only just caught up to European standards, but I have no idea if the cars here emit more than the same international model. I imagine trying to apply the same standards to the fleets of crap-belching trucks throughout China wouldn't get very far.

  14. Elmer Phud


    Burn more coal to show how poor the air quality is?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good idea

    Any chance of someone putting up big screens to show us what the night sky used to look like? I miss it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good idea

      Unfortunately, the screens are like the city night skies - it's been a long time since they've made the type that can show a decent black. :P

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    You should have seen it yesterday

    You couldn't see a tank right in front of you.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: You should have seen it yesterday

      Yes I liked the comment placed directly below the photo of the sunset screen, it would seem the photo was taken on a good day and even then not from the far side of the Square...

  17. midcapwarrior

    training domestic pilots for the low visibility

    One wonders how international pilots deal with the visibility

    1. Cliff

      Re: training domestic pilots for the low visibility

      Only domestic pilots will be flying VFR.

  18. swamptoad

    See Above -- Gannettt

    Please read reply to Gannettt above.

  19. Skymonrie

    You know it's bad when even the Chinese Government admit there is a problem...It's also a bit hard to hide the problem,'s easy to hide.

    This is quite literally dissolving the old values of China and replacing them with the new, shiny, "what do i do with this suitcase full of money?!?!?" set. Having lived in China/Hong Kong for a few years I can only say the problem is...Louis vuitton. Without LV people wouldn't need to fire up the helicopter in order to go grab that must have bag.

    In all sincerity though (and not taking in to account the ratio of money effectively spent), the Chinese government are starting to make some big changes to the way things are run in the name of environmental preservation in the places it counts most, education and infrastructure. You won't see so much solar power almost anywhere else...not that that matters with all the damn smog!!!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All of that suffering...

    ...just so that they can save the costs of stack scrubbers on their coal fired power plants. Go figure.

  21. Turtle


    "...China Daily reported that the US Consulate measured PM2.5 at 503 μg/m3 last month..."

    I was kind of struck by that sentence; I thought that it was an interesting source for a Chinese newspaper to use...

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Re: Citations.

      There were diplomatic feathers ruffled over that last year - the Chinese govt was doing the usual "problem? What problem?" thing (regardless of what they were actually doing to fix it). The US consulate was live-tweeting the measurements, and the Chinese govt was muttering about activities not falling under diplomatic cover. Looks like they've bowed to the inevitable.

  22. unwarranted triumphalism

    An easy solution...?

    If any smart-alec wants to suggest that Beijing use Boris' solution to particulate pollution - - they can feel free.

  23. JeffyPoooh

    Actually, cars could be part of the solution

    The problem with Chinese market cars is that they've failed to copy and paste the Clean Air Act into their local automobile emission regulations. Big mistake.

    Cars with modern emission systems would actually (literally, really, seriously) clean that air. They can help (in total ever so slightly) to clean the air pollution that's probably mostly caused by power plants burning dirty old brown coal.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: probably mostly caused by power plants burning dirty old brown coal

      Unfortunately it would seem that the pollution problem is caused in greater share by individual furnaces using dirty coal for heating purposes.

      The industry most likely has a share of responsibility, but it would therefor seem that it is much more the amount of population, its concentration and its heating source that is the issue.

      Therefor, you could likely replace all cars with eletric versions, and convert all power plants to nuclear and you will not see the pollution issue disappear.

      Not until people in Bejing can heat their homes with electrical-based solutions instead of coal-based.

      And that will take a lot more time.

      1. Willybee

        Re: probably mostly caused by power plants burning dirty old brown coal

        Vast majority of domestic cooking of food is also done with coal too. I have many pictures of wheelbarrows on every street, delivering cakes of pressed coal dust; they look like two hockey pucks stacked, with holes drilled for drafting combustion O2 within.....

        Pictures in storage, unfortunately, 3200 miles away.

  24. Blitterbug

    I particularly liked...

    ...the ad link beneath the article which said "The power of cloud"...

    Icon 'cos closest match..

  25. ecofeco Silver badge


    They haz it.

  26. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    I want that telly

    No idea where I would put it

  27. Willybee

    Worse than Taipei in 2002 already....

    When I went for a month in like 1985, when there were only a total of one million vehicles in the entire country, with very old diesel buses spewing smoke, I thought, wow.....if rapid growth continues, air quality in Beijing will be worse than Taipei soon. When I went again in 2002, it was already.

  28. Sheep!

    Given this story has been revealed to be a hoax....

    I can't help wondering where El Reg is lifting it's stories from second-hand....?

    "In truth, that sunrise was probably on the screen for less than 10 seconds at a time, as it was part of an ad for tourism in China’s Shandong province. The ad plays every day throughout the day all year round no matter how bad the pollution is. "

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