Rumors and speculation over regulations attempting to limit the torrent of new cars that appear on Beijing streets every day have been swirling around for weeks. Now it seems limits are going into effect, a move that has provoked a frenzy of car buying madness across the capital.
According to stories in this morning’s China Daily and Global Times the new regulations take effect today. In 2011 the city will only license 240,000 new vehicles, allocated through a lottery system. To give some perspective on what this means, over 700,000 cars were licensed in 2010. The scope for – ahem – “underhand dealings” in the new system is breathtaking.
The China Daily notes that the lottery is restricted to Beijing permanent residents and "foreigners who lived in the capital for at least one year." Chinese citizens without a Beijing permanent residence permit will need to provide proof that they’ve been paying social security and personal income tax in Beijing for five consecutive years to be eligible.
Ironically – though predictably – the regulation has provoked the biggest car buying spike in the capital’s history. Just last month Beijing set a new record as the number of new cars registered in a week doubled to 18,000. This past week the number skyrocketed to an astounding 30,000!
Other regulations include a hike in parking fees (from RMB 2 to RMB 10 per hour) on April 1, and the China Daily notes the city will "limit car usage on the basis of odd and even last license plate numbers … with additional car limits will also be imposed during bad weather, key festivals and when important activities are held." Whether that means a return to the every-day odds-evens restrictions like those imposed during the Beijing Olympics is unclear.
The Guardian pointed out today that at the current rate Beijing will hit the 5 million vehicle mark by February – a mere 14 months after we passed the 4 million mark. In late 2009 locals were shocked that Beijing had gone from 3 to 4 million in a short 2 years.
The person feeling the immediate fallout from the sudden surge is former vice mayor for traffic management, Huang Wei, who, according to the New York Times, “resigned Thursday and was reassigned to remote western China, the exile destination of choice for those out of favor.” Some Chinese traditions just never die.
The lack of parking for all these cars, and the possibility that plates will not be issued for cars without their own parking spaces, has led to overnight campouts and fights among residents vying for the mere hundreds of spaces in communities of thousands.
Everyone may enjoy some extra congestion this evening as we blogged earlier this week. Consider it Beijing’s Christmas gift to everyone.