China is a desert.
The Beijing government’s attempts to control the dust or to stop the annual spring sandstorms are an exercise in futility. All it takes is one trip over the mountains to figure that out. This city is bounded to the north and west by a mountain range. The western and northern slopes of that range drop into the desert.
Last week, when I flew to Urumqi, the plane headed due west over the mountains. I love the window seat so I can see from the air places that are familiar on the ground. . For me, flying is like climbing inside of a map. I hate it when there are clouds. Anyway, as soon as we crossed over the mountains, as I said the landscape drops away to desert, and remains desert for the duration of the 3 and half hour flight. In other words, from just west of Bejing, all the way to Urumqi, there is desert. That’s like flying from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, with it being desert all the way from Worthington, instead of just from Las Vegas.
Anyway, when a sandstorm starts somewhere out there, no amount of tree planting or party pronouncements in Beijing can do a thing about it. The funny thing is that I suspect that most Beijing residents aren’t aware just how much of a desert it is to our west, so do not find it ludicrious when the party announces that there will be no more sandstorms in Beijing after 2008.