BEIJING — It takes a lot to faze residents of a city as smoggy as Beijing. But after four straight days of air so hazardous it has defied government charts and labels, the disbelief and outrage are palpable.
Government vehicles have been pulled off the roads, production slowed at thousands of factories and children told to stay indoors. On Monday, even China’s state-run media — which usually avoid criticizing the government on such topics — ran reports and editorials acknowledging the problem and demanding solutions.
The haze that has settled over the capital highlights a thorny situation for China’s newly elevated slate of leaders, who have promised transparency and reform. Delivering those on such persistent, intractable problems as China’s environment, however, may prove difficult.
The trouble began last week with a growing fog over the city. By Friday, it had become hard to see office buildings just down the street. By Saturday, the smog had reached epic proportions, stinging residents’ eyes, causing respiratory problems and sparking a panicked run on stores selling masks and air filters.