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Green concerns keep many away from cars
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Faced with consistent fuel price rises and the much-anticipated fuel tax, many Chinese have refrained from buying private vehicles.

According to a recent survey conducted by, 732, or 50.69 percent, of the 1,444 respondents said they will not purchase a car now, 231 gave no comment, while 481, or 33.31 percent, indicated they want to buy a private car.

An auto show attracts many visitors in Jinan, Shandong Province.

Fuel prices have risen persistently both internationally and domestically, and the government is looking for an appropriate time to impose a tax on gasoline, diesel and kerosene to encourage energy conservation and reduce emissions.

Respondents, who chose not to buy cars, listed various reasons for their decision, which involved environmental protection, energy consumption, traffic jams, parking problems, improvements in public transportation, as well as low income.

"Not money, but environment," one respondent said, a view shared by many others.

China has about 50 million vehicles on its roads. Fuel consumption of vehicles accounts for a third of the total, and is estimated to rise to 57 percent by 2020. Vehicle emissions have replaced coal to become the main source of air pollution in some big cities.

A respondent called on people to use buses, the metro, bicycles or even walk. "I like walking, it would be better not only for the environment but for health too."

Key cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have taken active measures to develop public transport. Metro fares in Beijing were cut by more than 30 percent this month while bus fares were slashed by more than 60 percent in January. A one-way metro ticket now costs only 2 yuan, about the price of a can of Coke, irrespective of the length of the journey.

Many respondents believe some buy cars just to show off. "I hate the idea of a car as a status symbol," said one participant. "Fuel prices, traffic jams and parking problems have to be taken into consideration when one plans to buy a car. In most cases, these disadvantages outweigh the advantages of owning a car."

But vehicle sales have risen fast in China. In the first eight months of this year, sales rose by a quarter, boosted by the rapid growth of the economy as well as new offerings and price incentives. It's estimated that full-year sales will exceed 9 million units, up from 7.22 million last year.

As the world's second largest consumer and the third biggest producer of cars, China is now reportedly the No 1 potential market.

Respondents who insisted on owning cars said they want cars for convenience and for practical reasons.

A respondent pointed out that his/her priority is convenience. "So it makes no difference if the oil price goes up a little."

Some participants' new houses are far from downtown Beijing, where they work, as houses are more affordable in these areas. So they want private vehicles for the daily commute. "Apartments in the city center are too expensive, which forced me to pick a suburban area," complained a respondent.

"It's more convenient to have your own car for short trips out of the city with family," said another.

Along with increases in disposable income and improvement in living standards, travel has become one of the major relaxation activities for Chinese, with the trend of self-driven tours to neighboring rural areas over weekends and holidays growing.

But some respondents confided they wanted their own car to fulfill their "dream".

"I have been dreaming of a car for many years. If I can afford it, why not?" said one.

(China Daily October 26, 2007)

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