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“My father says that there is only one perfect view—the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it.” – Room with a View, E.M. Forster
Now this is what I call a room with a view. 82 floors up and I feel as if I’m standing closer to the stars than I am to the earth. Wait… what do you mean you can’t see anything? Oh… you’re right, nor can I.
Welcome to The Moodie Davitt Report Interim Guangzhou Bureau. I’ve just arrived at Four Seasons Hotel, home to TFWA’s China’s Century Conference which kicks off tonight with an Opening Cocktail. This event, held every two years, is always a good one, and given everything going on right now both within China and in terms of China’s place in the world, it’s particularly timely.
I flew in late yesterday to Hong Kong International Airport, grabbed a few hours sleep and headed here on an early bird flight along with several other travel retail executives. The hotel is spectacular and so, I suspect, are the views. But right now, thanks to a dank cloak of smog that resembles an old-style London pea-soup fog in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, I can only vouch for the internal ones.
There’s nothing bleak about this hotel of course; it’s spectacular luxury the whole way. But it has to be said that I can see further in front of me within my room than out the window. The World Health Organization’s upper safety limit for air pollution is 35 micrograms of PM 2.5 (the fine particulate matter that is especially hazardous to health) per cubic meter. China uses a less strict benchmarking, classifying up to 75 micrograms as “good”.
In a recent study of five major Chinese cities, which defined a level of under 35 as “good,” and under 75 as “light” pollution, Guangzhou and Shanghai had the most “good” or “light” days. Today is not one of them. In fact, at 149, it’s officially deemed ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’. Well, I’m not sure I’m the most sensitive type in the world but I certainly won’t be charging outside for a 5km run anytime soon. In fact even during the time it took me to write this Blog, visibility has faded from marginal to absolutely nil (see the picture below). If E.M. Forster had ever stayed here, he might have just tweaked the title of his great work ever so slightly.