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Beijing's smog could drive expats to move to other cities

Sourced by Geoffrey Murray from Global Times Published: 2013-2-17

The current concern over "toxic" air in Beijing seems to be encouraging some of the capital's large expatriate community to think of moving elsewhere.

Beijing air pollution
A report in a foreign newspaper I happened to spot recently suggests growing interest among foreign companies to move to Shanghai, for example, because its air quality index reading recently was 20 percent better than Beijing.

As a professional mover in Beijing, PHX Logistics have received more and more moving cases in recent years, which were forced by the air pollution and affection of breathing-system desease. Statistic data shows that more expats are moving to coastal cities e.g. Shanghai and Shenzhen. On the other hand, inbound shipments are losing it's dominant position comparing with outbound shipments. "We may have to face the reality and have no choice to help expats to move out of Beijing or back to their countries." Mr. Peter Lee GM of PHX Logistics says.

Furthermore, a Beijing-based recruitment firm that has many multinational clients was quoted as finding it harder to attract suitable expat managerial candidates because they did not want to live in the capital.

One should stress this is still a relatively minor phenomenon, yet it is something Beijing should bear in mind to compete with other Chinese cities, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, to attract the regional or even global headquarters of top-flight multinationals.

Photographs published around the world last month showing the capital's iconic Tiananmen Square almost obliterated by thick smog certainly don't amount to a good advertisement for the businessmen or tourists who contribute so much to Beijing's wealth.

However, for the moment, most multinationals - an estimated 640 of them according to some estimates - are accepting the bad situation, issuing staff with masks and installing air purifiers in their offices.

After all, Beijing is China's political and cultural capital. No matter how bad things get, multinationals in the energy, commodities, transport and infrastructure fields, for example, simply cannot afford to move.

As long as China is viewed as playing a key role in the global economy, foreign companies will want to come, even if it means paying a "pollution allowance" on the financial packages they offer expat staff.

Beijing PM2.5 surged
Today's news report from Baidu indicates that Air Quality Index exceeded the maximum of 500.br, which approched the extremly high level as recorded. "While with effective efforts from both the government and the public, we may welcome you moving back to Beijing in the next couple of years." Lee says.