Start-ups love Beijing, can't stand the bad air

Buildings shrouded in smog in Yanjiao district, Hebei, yesterday. Air pollution continues to affect most parts of China, with visibility said to be less than 200m in places such as Beijing and Tianjin.
Buildings shrouded in smog in Yanjiao district, Hebei, yesterday. Air pollution continues to affect most parts of China, with visibility said to be less than 200m in places such as Beijing and Tianjin.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Many thinking of relocating to other cities, with Hangzhou the top choice: Survey

HONG KONG • About one in two entrepreneurs in Beijing is thinking about moving out of the city because of smog, a survey has shown.

The survey by 36kr.com, a Beijing-based online platform that provides tech start-up news and services, polled nearly 300 entrepreneurs.

Nearly half of them said they have thought about moving their entire businesses or part of their operations out of the city because of the appalling air quality, reported the South China Morning Post.

However, only 4 per cent have already made actual plans.

Some 53 per cent of the survey respondents said they want to stay put in Beijing because the city is "irreplaceable in terms of market and resources", according to 36kr.com.

But cities in eastern and southern China, where the economy is thriving and pollution is less frequent and less severe, are starting to emerge as more popular choices for tech experts and start-ups, 36kr.com said.

Nearly a quarter of respondents chose Hangzhou, home to Alibaba Group Holdings, followed by Shenzhen, with 23.23 per cent of the respondents picking the southern city. Shanghai came in third, with 13.13 per cent of the respondents opting to relocate there.

 

Beijing-based entrepreneur Gu Jun, for instance, told the Post he has begun the new year by busily planning to relocate his business.

"This smog engulfing the city is doing our health no good, and this grey air triggers all kinds of negative feelings, which is the last thing already stressed-out entrepreneurs like myself want," said the 26-year- old, who founded Need, a mobile e-commerce start-up, in 2014. He has spent nine years in Beijing since starting college there, and said it offers many advantages, including government support, a wide talent pool and a healthy community of venture capitalists.

A survey of 2,100 entrepreneurs across 21 cities by the National Survey Research Centre at Renmin University of China last year found that Beijing is considered to have the best environment for start-ups.

Cities in the Yangtze Delta region such as Ningbo, Suzhou and Shanghai rank in the second tier, while cities in China's north-east rank lower, reported the Wall Street Journal in March last year.

But the recurrent bouts of smog since last October are threatening to tarnish the Chinese capital's appeal. Ms Wendy Mu, managing partner of human resources firm ManPower Group China, said she has started to see the start of a shift.

"In previous years, around three out of 10 candidates we called were interested in relocation. But since last year, that has risen. Six out of 10 are open to relocation and the poor air quality in Beijing is an important reason," she told the Post.

Health alerts for air pollution and fog remained in place for most parts of China yesterday. The National Meteorological Centre has forecast that air quality will improve on Sunday night with the arrival of a strong cold front. But it may worsen again by next Thursday.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Wednesday that nearly 62 per cent of Chinese cities are affected by air pollution, reported Xinhua news agency.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline 'Start-ups love Beijing, can't stand the bad air'. Print Edition | Subscribe