While most of China is blanketed in a thick cloud of hazardous smog, there are pockets of the country that still enjoy clean, fresh air. One of those places is Guizhou.
This southwestern province is one of the last places in China that isn’t routinely affected by the nation’s ongoing air-pollution problems. Nestled westward of most of China’s industrial cities and metropolitan centers, the province has hatched a new tourism scheme to draw in visitors: manufacture canned fresh air.
According Guizhou’s provincial tourism bureau website, the plan is to have the canned air ready for distribution by June 20, and have it officially unveiled at an event in Guiyang, the province's capital city, in July. The website press release claims that the idea actually came up earlier in the month during the annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing. Apparently President Xi Jinping made the suggestion when he was speaking to Guizhou’s governor, Chen Min’er, who informed the president that the province consistently registers low PM2.5 pollutants on the Air Pollution Index of 50 or under. Xi then responded by saying that “air quality is now a deciding factor in people’s perception of happiness,” and suggested that the province “sell air cans in the future,” the South China Morning Post reported.
Guizhou does not have much economic appeal mostly because it is underdeveloped by comparison to nearby coastal provinces and the southwestern province of Sichuan. This has a large role in the amount of clear air. The province is known to have beautiful scenery and to be rich in natural resources.
The canned air will be a gimmick that the tourism board can promote for tourists as a bit of a gag gift to take home to their smog-ridden cities. Fu Yingchun, the head of Guizhou’s tourism bureau, told press that he was confident in the success of the plan.
Online, however, people seem less convinced. “Cute idea, I guess,” one blogger wrote on popular social-media platform, Weibo. “But really it’s still a waste of money.”
“We want fresh air,” another blogger chimed in. “Not air in a can!”
This isn’t the first time a “canned air” gimmick was conjured up in China. The billionaire philanthropist Chen Guangbiao, who made news late last year by claiming he wanted to purchase the New York Times, first gained recognition in the news for his own fresh-air scheme. Chen funded a stunt in which he handed out cans of “fresh air” during a smoggy week in Beijing that came in different flavors like “pristine Tibet” or “post-industrial Taiwan” for 5 yuan (80 cents) a pop.