By Yang Guang
Published: 2007-12-21

From Nation, page 9, issue no. 346, December 17th, 2007
Translated by Zuo Maohong
Original article:

A biting cold and dry wind sweeps through Shanxi province's Changzhi, just as it does across many cities in northern China during the winter. Walking on one of the city's sidewalks, even on a foggy winter day, one can easily distinguish the black dust that has settled in between the slits of the brick pavement.

Undaunted, this same city's local government is busy campaigning for awards such as "National Residential Environment Award", "World Residential Environment Award", "The Most Beautiful City in Shanxi Province", "The Most Ecologically Friendly City" and " The Most Suitable Place to Live in Central China". The list goes on.

In reality, this heavy-industry-dependent city was in 2004 classified by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) as one of 113 environmental crisis hotspot cities.

With this background, few would expect such a city to win the title of "China's Top Ten Charming City" that very same year. But the praise didn't stop there-- more glamorous titles followed, , including "National Garden City", "National Sanitary City", "Outstanding City in Greenery Projects", "Model City of Environmental Protection in Shanxi", and more.

Changzhi has been seriously polluted for as far back as Zhang – a teacher of Changzhi Medical College who has lived there for 47 years – can remember. City residents have to change their clothes at least once a day to remain clean, and things get worse during the winter. "But in general, the city is cleaner than many other cities in Shanxi," says Zhang.

Among the 113 cities listed for environmental monitoring in 2004, Changzhi was at the top of the list. "The mention of Changzhi evokes the image of a blackened and polluted city, and this impelled the local government to take action and improve its conditions," says Sun Yimin, office director of Changzhi Municipal Bureau of Landscaping.

Changzi's local government leapt at the opportunity to redeem its reputation when CCTV, the national television station, launched a competition to find "China's Top Ten Charming City" in 2004. The competition – with a jury line-up of intellectuals that boast names like Jin Yong and Yi Zhongtian, two famous Chinese writers, – attracted entries nationwide.

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