News / Asia

Chinese Millionaire Sells Cans of Fresh Air

Chinese multimillionaire Chen Guangbiao (R) gives a can of fresh air to a man wearing a mask on a hazy day in central Beijing, January 30, 2013.
Chinese multimillionaire Chen Guangbiao (R) gives a can of fresh air to a man wearing a mask on a hazy day in central Beijing, January 30, 2013.
China's foulest two-week period for air pollution in memory has rekindled a tongue-in-cheek campaign by a multimillionaire with a streak of showmanship who is selling canned fresh air.

Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in the recycling business and is a high-profile philanthropist, on January 30 handed out soda pop-sized cans of air, purportedly from far-flung, pristine regions of China such as Xinjiang in the northwest to Taiwan, the southeast coast.

"I want to tell mayors, county chiefs and heads of big companies: don't just chase GDP growth, don't chase the biggest profits at the expense of our children and grandchildren and at the cost of sacrificing our ecological environment", Chen said.

China's air quality is closely watched as it fluctuates dramatically from day to day but in recent weeks has registered far into the unhealthy zone.

Air pollution is measured in terms of PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are absorbed by the lungs and can cause heart and lung disease. The World Health Organisation recommends a daily PM2.5 level of 20 and says that levels greater than 300 are serious health hazards.

Beijing's air quality frequently surges past a level of 500, and on Jan. 12 soared to 755, the highest in memory.

"I go outside, walk for about 20 minutes, and my throat hurts and I feel dizzy", Chen told Reuters in an interview on a busy Beijing sidewalk.

He handed out green and orange cans of "Fresh Air", with a caricature of himself on them saying, "Chen Guangbiao is a good man".

"Be a good person, have a good heart, do good things," reads a message along the bottom of each can.

The 44-year-old entrepreneur, whose wealth is estimated at $740 million according to last year's Hurun Rich List of China's super-wealthy, is an ebullient and tireless self-promoter.

He is something of a celebrity in China, with more than 4 million followers on Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like microblogging platform.

He concedes that his canned-air effort is tongue in cheek, but says it's a way to awaken people to the importance of environmental protection. His campaign is attracting bemusement but also plaudits from the media and from people desperate to escape the smog.

"Beijing's air really needs to improve, so we need a good man like him to appear," said a 21-year-old resident surnamed Hu. "It reminds people to use less fuel and do what they can for Beijing's air".

The cans of air were free on January 30, but usually sell for 5 yuan (80 cents) with proceeds going to poor regions of China, and places of historic revolutionary importance.

Sales, which had been moderate, took off after the recent streak of bad air days, with 8 million cans sold in the last 10 days, Chen said.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Brandon from: Merced
February 05, 2013 9:46 PM
I don't think Frank read the article, instead focusing on the misleading title.

If you do read it, it says he either: hands them out for free as a political statement, OR sells them with the proceeds donated to poor regions of China.

by: Frank from: Orange County
January 31, 2013 3:23 AM
Look! Greedy Chinese make everything a commodity. Chinese will kill themselves by polluting their air before they invade other countries' territories. Communist China's collapse is around the corner.

by: Frog God from: Sacramento, Ca
January 31, 2013 2:16 AM
Mel Brooks came up with the idea first (Spaceballs)

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs