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January 29, 2022

Chinese millionaire sells cans of fresh air to offer smog relief

If you haven't been following this China smog story -- and really, guys, let's try to keep up with the Asian urban pollution beat, shall we? -- things have gotten pretty bad in eastern parts of the country.

So thick is the smog, in fact, that airlines have had to cancel flights, prompting China to temporarily shut some of its factories and keep government cars off the road.

Beijing may be worst. According to the Associated Press, the Chinese capital yesterday was a "colourless scene. Street lamps and the outlines of buildings receded into a white haze as pedestrians donned face masks to guard against the caustic air."

Bad as it's gotten, one Chinese entrepreneur thinks he's found the solution: canned air.

Chen Guangbiao is a Chinese millionaire, a guy whose wealth sits at some $740 million, according to the latest reports.

*Bing: Who is China's richest man?

Guangbiao is a bombastic fellow, a PR-hungry businessman who might be likened to Sir Richard Branson, Virgin's headline-chasing founder.

So what's Guangbiao done with a national crisis like crippling smog? He' spotted an opportunity.

The outspoken millionaire has begun selling "fresh air" in soft drink cans, replete with flavours bound to enliven even the most smog-bogged Chinese.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Guangbiao's fresh air flavours include "pristine Tibet" and "post-industrial Taiwan." Delicious.

"If we don't start caring for the environment after 20 or 30 years our children and grandchildren might be wearing gas masks and carry oxygen tanks," he said.

Call Guangbiao what you will, and certainly selling canned fresh air for about a dollar a pop is quite a stunt.

But then, China's in a real rough spot now. According to the latest readings out of Beijing, the pollution gauge shows a level almost 20 times the air quality standard across the rest of the world.

Guangbiao is trying his best to save that, 355 mL at a time.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...