Look. Blue.
Confucius says, “Look! No smog!”

Something completely strange and unheard of has been happening with Beijing’s weather over the past week. The sky has been blue. The first day this happened, I figured it must have been because of a rainstorm the previous day. (Rain often drives the pollution out of the air.) On the second day, I thought maybe some magical weather system was preventing smog buildup. And by the third day, when I had seen as much blue sky in a week as I’d seen the rest of the summer, I realized it had to be the government.

The Olympics are one year away, and Beijing wants to make sure it doesn’t suffer the embarrassment of elite athletes being unable to compete because, well, they can’t breathe. To that end, this weekend the city will be testing laws that keep more than a third of the city’s cars off the road. But already there is absolutely no smog whatsoever, and this leads me to believe they’re doing more than limiting vehicle traffic. In fact, a lot of people have been wondering whether the government is simply shuttering factories or actually playing with the weather.

The timing of the blue skies is fortuitous — coinciding with the activities related to the one-year countdown to the games. I imagine the Beijing government would love to hear a lot more quotes like this one from the captain of the Canadian women’s beach volleyball team, which was in town to try out the Beijing venue: “We heard about pollution fears but looking at the sky today and enjoying this weather, we don’t see any problem. It’s fantastic.” Wow. She should have been here the rest of the summer, when you could actually smell the chemicals in the air.

I don’t know what they’re doing, but I hope they keep it up for the rest of my stay. Previously, the smog was so thick that it obscured my view of trees and buildings 30 feet in front of me. Now, I can see stars at night.