August 16, 2007
All around Beijing large areas of production forests are realised over the last years. They dont produce wood and little clean air, but rather a green image for the city. As an image these plantations are highly effective. Coming into the city from the airport, visitors are greeted by row upon row of trees lining the road. Beyond the expressway there are even more big patches of neatly ordered lines of trees. An image forest however is produced with speed in mind. The fast growing jou zu tree used in the majority of woods, was a bad choice. It is not an indigenous tree and as it turned out they consume large quantities of water, creating problems for the water supply. While the sandstorms in spring are reduced by the green wall around Beijing, they are replaced by clouds of catkins, causing allergic reactions, litter in the streets, block the sight of drivers, break down cars and start fires.
Green Olympics is one of the three concepts for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. And it is being heralded as the greenest ever. The Olympic sites are constructed with environmentally friendly technologies. Urban and rural afforestation is taking place in and around Beijing and citizens are greatly encouraged to make green consumption choices. It is a great way to advertise China as a country with a green agenda, not the nation soon to surpass the USA as the biggest polluter worldwide.
As much as all the green is used to build a city better fit for all to enjoy it is also a great way of hiding things. The building pits in Beijing are hidden from sight by giant billboards, most of them filled with advertising. In particular the new subway stations built to be completed in 2008 are obscured from street view by hundreds of meters of prints depicting full-colour pictures of lush parks and greens. On top of this the impression of depth is enhanced by preceding the printed screen by a strip of real trees and bushes. Around the corner of Tianmen square, one of the most photographed spots in Beijing, the ministry of public security also utilises a green screen. A small strip of green backed up by huge billboards with pictures of the same trees obscure whats behind with an enjoyable illusion.
In the summer of 2007 the Green Long March takes place. In a re-enactment of the communists long march, the organisation aims to lay the foundation for a sustainable Chinese civilisation. This practically amounts to what the marchers call the greening of China: planting trees and sharing ideas for a better environment. Campaigns towards afforestation have a tradition in the recent history of China. Every year there is an estimated growth of 5.3 million hectares of forest. in 2002 850 million trees had been planted in Beijing alone. A figure only multiplied by the recent Green Olympics activities. The Green Long March is an event that builds on these accomplishments but is also mainly about making this visible. Mostly a media campaign, the images of Green China will be broadcasted nationally and internationally and through the local news media.
Huge billboards are to be found on every street in the whole of Beijing. More often than not they depict serene scenes from nature in the background. Popular themes are clear blue skies with a few puffs of white clouds, flowery grasslands stretching out towards the horizon or a lush park forest. Real estate developers and the government alike, use these scenes to appeal to something that is in fact the complete opposite of the urban environment they are promoting. But these scenes really seem to fit any product, small businesses use them just as often. From advertising Sichuan dishes to chain-saws or computers. They all probably appeal to a desire for nature by the Beijing city dwellers. But by printing these dream images on huge billboards, the image the city offers starts to resemble the dream.