With the eyes of the world on any escalation of damaged relations between China and American president-elect Donald Trump, and a distinctly South African wrangle over a visit by Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga to Taiwan to promote trade links at the risk of stepping on sensibilities in Beijing, the world’s most populous nation has turned to some long overdue domestic housekeeping.
A veritable rash of images have brought the insidious clinging cloaks of the smog which has cloaked the biggest Chinese cities during the winter months into grey, unhealthy areas of unpleasant monochromatic existence.
But stunned into action, officials in Beijing are to create a new environmental police squad in the latest effort to fight China’s persistent pollution.
State media said the new police force would target open-air barbecues, garbage incineration and the burning of wood, but giving lip service to largely coal-burning factories and a surplus of older, inefficient vehicles, surely by far the biggest culprits and spheres of activity which has already ignored previous partial government bans and “red alerts” on the worst days.
Beijing tacitly acknowledges that enforcement will more than likely be a troublesome issue. So perhaps in this aspect South Africa and China are closer than one might think.