NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- China's modern economic era began with a Communist Party plenum in 1978, which was focused on economic liberalization. In the 35 years since, China has rushed through centuries of industrial development, and now finds itself facing the problem American industry hit in the 1960s.
Old-timers in Los Angeles or Pittsburgh can tell you all about smog. I first saw the word, a combination of smoke and fog, in old Warner Brothers cartoons. But it was no joke. Smog can be deadly. It consists of fine particulate matter suspended in the air, creating haze and endangering lung health. And now Shanghai faces some of the deadliest smog ever recorded.
Today in Shanghai, cars were ordered off the road, flights were canceled, factories were ordered to halt production and children were kept indoors. Smog had reduced visibility to just a few feet.
The level of small particulates in the air at 7 a.m. local time was measured at 466 micrograms per cubic meter by government measures. The U.S. Consulate showed a level of 503. The official government measure for the day was 384, but a peak level of 590 was recorded.
By contrast, the air in New York City averages a measurement of 10.
Chef Alan Yu, who works in Shanghai, described the air on his microblog as having "a layered taste," at first "slightly astringent with some smokiness," and an aftertaste of "earthy bitterness," in which you can actually feel the dust on your palate.