PARTNERSHIP WITH CHINA
Isles help Beijing battle foul air
BEIJING » One of the most glaring offshoots of China's booming economy, particularly in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, cannot only be seen, but felt.
On any given day, the smog and air pollution in the Chinese capital is comparable to the infamous skies of Los Angeles. To a traveler unaccustomed to the atmosphere, breathing problems can set in within days.
With the prospect of millions visiting for the games and athletes competing in outdoor venues such as track and field, pollution is an issue at the forefront of organizers' minds.
"We are trying to do everything possible to combat air pollution," Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee, recently told a group of international journalists, which included the Star-Bulletin.
Those efforts have included steps such as the planting of 18 million trees throughout the capital city since last year, and establishing a program aimed at adopting stricter standards on automobile emissions, Sun said.
There also is a push to use cleaner-burning fuels such as compressed natural gas for buses and other vehicles that will be in heavy use for the Games.
Officials are starting to see progress.
In 2005 the number of days that were considered to be of "good" air quality was 234, compared with just 100 in 1998, said Sun.
"But we are by no means satisfied," he added.
Hawaii is hoping to help.
Since it was formally recognized by the Chinese government in September 2004, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism office in Beijing has attempted to help Hawaii companies find partners and get established in China.
A key focus has been on tapping into China's tourism and visitor markets through the establishment of the Integrated Development Group, a partnership of businesses set up to develop strategies for competing in China.
But Bo Wu, executive director of the DBEDT office in Beijing, said a similar partnership has been set up to help environmental companies.
"Hawaii is very strong in environmental companies," said Wu. "We're trying to find environmental opportunities in China."
The Environmental Development Group is scheduled to sponsor a trade mission to China in September.
Environmental efforts are not targeted solely on Beijing.
Last week, a delegation from Chengdu was in Honolulu for three days to meet with members from the Environmental Development Group, said Milton Kwock, manager of DBEDT's business development program.
The six-member group, led by the vice director of the Chengdu Water Authority, is studying ways to alleviate water pollution in the region's Fu and Nan rivers, Kwock said.
As more upper-level Chinese government officials have visited Hawaii in recent months, they have had the chance to meet with local companies hoping to gain a foothold in all sectors of the Chinese economy.
For the Olympics, Hawaii is offering its help in marketing, too.
During a visit to Honolulu earlier this month, Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan got a firsthand look at how Hawaii companies can help in promoting the games.
Wang, who as Beijing mayor serves on the executive board for the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee, also was traveling with a delegation that included members from three of the top four media groups in China, said Ted Liu, state director of business, economic development and tourism.
The delegation met with local companies that produce content for interactive broadband cable television.
"We showed them this whole concept of marketing Beijing and the Olympics in an interactive way over the television," Liu said. "Nobody had discussed this with them yet. They had always used the traditional media."
Company officials intend to visit China later this month to follow up on the Honolulu meetings, he added.