Beijing to limit issuance of new car plates. Proposed strategy: Declare victory and move on.

The good news is that the Beijing authorities recognize that they are sitting on a time bomb and have shown themselves ready to deal with it. Their readiness to act is admirable and exemplary. As is their decision to look for an innovative way to get the job done. A Shanghai-level PISA A+ for their creative initiative.

The less good news is that this particular approach is almost certainly not the best one for the job, not least because they have chosen to opt for a policy measure that has been tried in other places and situation and which has always led to the problems that you outline. And yet others.

Here’s my point. I would very much like to think that we might be able to do our part to help them move beyond this to a more appropriate multi-level approach (needed when you are confronted with a multi-level problem such as this). Also, and this is extremely important, it is vital that whatever initiatives that they take will actually work as envisaged and announced. This is a new approach for them, — and for many other cities in the world — and so since Beijing is a world city, we want a world level success for them. If they show the way, many many others will follow.

How to engage this dialogue?

Backup/Contingency Strategy:

I propose that they need is a backup strategy and this is something that I think we can help them with. The fundamental idea is to save face and move ahead with a next generation package of measured.

In this view of things, the strategy is to run the lottery for some limited time (say two months) and then when they have taken a first bite out of the problem (which they will with no doubt), to shift calmly and seamlessly to another more effective approach. But it is important that this move is preceded by a high profile pubic declaration of victory.

The other measures which I am reading about sound right on target: Parking controls and full-cost pricing are definitely part of the winning package. The final package will leave Chinese citizens free to buy as many cars as they wish. But NOT to use them in cities, unless they are ready to pay the FULL COSTS involved.

I am sure that we all wish them great good luck and await with real interest the result of the program.

Eric Britton


One thought on “Beijing to limit issuance of new car plates. Proposed strategy: Declare victory and move on.

  1. Hey Eric, I’m always happy to offer the other side of the argument.
    In this case, I think you are right on. One social issue though might get in the way, Beijing is currently very concerned about the growing wealth gap. If the cost of car ownership really reflected the costs, it would be too far beyond what most Chinese could afford, and the middle class would feel poorer.
    The trends I have seen over the past few years here has been for China to make people feel rich, and nothing says “rich” like having your own car.
    Beijing just might have to bite the bullet on this one, but improving public transportation should be the first move before they put cars out of reach for too many.


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