During the May Day holiday, Beijing was hit by strong sandstorms, creating the worst weather of the year. You were born in Beijing and have lived here for decades. Is the situation better or worse?
You know what, the situation is much better now. Actually, it's not until recent years that I think the people came up with the term shachenbao ("sandstorm"). When I was a kid, weather like this was very normal. We just called it a windy day, nothing special. The hutong we lived in at that time had no cement walkways, just rough dirt paths. It really hurt when the strong winds carried the sand or dirt as they smashed right into your face. I remember women had to wrap their heads with scarves before they rode bikes to work. The government has invested huge sums into planting trees in neighboring provinces to improve the situation and safeguard the city. As far as I know, forests and green areas have been created in Hebei, Jilin and Gansu provinces, and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Usually mid- to late spring is when sandstorms are most frequent, especially when the new grass is fragile and rainfall is low. I predict after this recent sandstorm, there'll be no more weather like it. After all, summer is on the way.
People today are complaining about the rising prices of vegetables and fruits more than ever before. How do you feel about the challenges facing both farmers and consumers?
Everybody knows farmers today have difficult lives and that the lives of the urban residents are not easy either. Both are not to blame for the rising vegetable prices. It's because of the middlemen. The circulation process is key to solving the problem. If the government has more policies to help link farmers and supermarkets directly, it will help reduce vegetable prices and not damage the interests of producers. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I got to know a farmer who planted flowers in the suburbs. His flowers were very cheap, but were sold at crazy prices in florist shops. The farmer said he received little benefit. The closest place we get our vegetables from is Shouguang in Shandong province. I was told the cost of a large truck to transport vegetables is 2,000 to 3,000 yuan.
(China Daily 05/05/2011)