Most Chinese are busy this week with traditional preparations for the upcoming Spring Festival, such as curing random meats and scalping train tickets. But unbeknownst to them, trouble is massing on their borders. China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday expressed concern over Japan’s decision to increase the size of its fearsome 225,000-person national defense force – a dangerous provocation amid the still-festering conflict over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. The troop build-up, the largest in Japan in 20 years, will add a whopping 287 soldiers, with the new recruits allegedly being selected the only way Japan knows how, through online vote. Not one to be toyed with, China dispatched a fleet of three warships to conduct naval exercises and war games in the neighborhood, effectively giving the bird to the doctrine of proportional response.
Meanwhile on its northern border, China looks increasingly at risk of a barbarian invasion as a commercial dispute reignites the ancient Sino-Mongol rivalry. Mongolian mining firm Erdenes-Tavan Tolgoi stopped exporting coal to China last week and threatened to terminate its coal-for-loans agreement with Chalco after disputing the low price of the contract. While the Mongolian firm attempted to smooth over the dispute by offering a generous grass-for-loans deal in exchange, the Chinese were not appeased – Beijing’s coal-fired smog has become an important part of the Chinese identity, as well as a boon to the economy.
For China’s top leaders, ensuring a steady supply of smoggy air is now crucial to maintaining social stability and supporting economic growth. Now important pillars of the Chinese economy, sellers of face masks and air purifiers cheered this week as smog and pollution levels again soared in Beijing. Millionaire and media darling Chen Guangbiao is also preparing to make a killing off of his cans of Perri-Air. (Chen, who plans to use the proceeds to expand his suit collection, has a flair for “high-profile” antics: According to the Guardian, “Last month, [Chen] lay under a sheet of wood and steel while two cars drove over him, to demonstrate that the world would be better without cars.”)
Cans of fresh air are expected to appear alongside the other traditional treats of the Spring Festival banquet this year. The US consulate was reportedly enthused with Chen’s invention and the potential for massive air exports to the PRC. “We thought we didn’t have anything to export to China anymore,” said one consular employee, who asked to remain anonymous because he doesn’t exist.