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28 June 2017, Wednesday, 18:40 (Hong Kong)

Owning a car is getting harder in China's big cities

Minerva Studio, Shutterstock

China’s automobile industry has expanded rapidly in recent years. In 2009, it became the world’s largest new automobile market. The former “nation on bicycle” has now transformed into a country that increasingly depends on automobiles for transportation. China has also been actively developing automobiles that run on clean energy. While China’s automobile market is far from being saturated, big cities have announced their policies one after another to control new purchases.

Shanghai was the first city in China that took a measure to control automobile purchases as early as 1994. Shanghai employed an auction approach to limit the issuance of automobile plates. In 2011, Beijing introduced a lottery method to limit the issue of automobile plates.

Beijing is still facing traffic pressure even after the implementation of the plate control policy

Since then, it has become more and more difficult to win this lottery. By 2013, automobile purchase control policies had been implemented in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Guiyang and Shijiazhuang. By the end of 2014, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Shenzhen also announced similar policies.

The purpose of such control is to solve traffic problems and improve the quality of air. According to statistics, thirty-five cities in China each have more than one million automobiles. In ten cities such as Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen, the number of automobiles is more than two million. It seems that such control should be an effective way to deal with these big-city problems. However, whether it is reasonable or effective has provoked controversy.

Can it solve traffic problems?

One view points out that a city's traffic problems are partly due to the amount of automobiles. But one can't say that the only reason is the large number of cars. Evidence shows that there are other cities in the world that have more automobiles than Beijing, but they don’t have the same traffic problems as Beijing does.

According to analysis, Beijing is still facing traffic pressure even after the implementation of the plate control policy, and the only difference between with and without such policy is that the pressure is delayed, but not eliminated.

Can it improve the quality of air?

The automobile purchase control is not effective in dealing with air pollution. Experts argue that the government should do something else to improve air quality such as providing convenient and cheap transportation, making bicycle lanes and using clean energy.

Some experts also believe that the policy can't solve air pollution problems because the number of automobiles is still increasing. The government should encourage consumers to buy environment-friendly cars and regulate their use (Source) 

«South China Insight», 25.01.2015

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