Bottled air from Luanchuan county, Henan province, March 12. (File photo/CNS)
The question on whether China should manufacture bottles of oxygen as part of a tourism scheme was raised after China's president, Xi Jinping, raised the suggestion during the annual meeting of the National People's Congress session in early March in remarks on tackling the country's air pollution woes.
Authorities in the southwestern province of Guizhou held a media conference on March 20 to announce a plan to sell bottles of local fresh air which could be served as souvenirs to tourists. Once the canned air concept is commercialized, it could become a unique product and a bestseller for the province, said Fu Yingchun, chief of the provincial tourism bureau.
Guizhou authorities said they were inspired by Americans who had successfully launched cans of fresh air at Mount Fuji in Japan, a report in Guangzhou's Time Weekly said.
According to the report, many private companies have shown an interest in developing similar products and other provinces including as Zhejiang, Henan and Fujian have earmarked a budget to invest in the business.
Others have doubts about the market potential of bottled air however, noting that the government has allocated 1.75 trillion yuan (US$282 billion) to tackle the problem of smog and that this might be the better approach.
The report also noted that many stores have already started selling canned air on Taobao, the country's leading e-commerce platform. Priced at 50 to 200 yuan (US$8-$32) per bottle, the sellers told reporters that they only needed to cover the production cost of the bottle, which was only around 3 yuan (US$0.48), as the air inside was — believe it or not — free.
In 2012, flamboyant billionaire philanthropist Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in the recycling business, claimed to have produced 100,000 such cans of air which he claimed was from Taiwan and east China's Anhui province.
However, Wang Lifeng, the vice president of Chen's drink company, admitted later to reporters that the "fresh air" in the bottle was nothing but air from the factory. Wang said his plant, located in Guangdong in southern China, had stopped production after Chen had unveiled his gimmick.
The canned air business is about creating a culture of environmental awareness, but it cannot not solve any pollution problems by itself, Wang admitted.