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Fed up of disruptive snow?
Head to Beijing. (Where it’s snowing.)

Big Societies can deal with big problems.

Snow, whilst often misrepresented as ‘prettily picturesque’, actually represents a gross public menace; a BIG problem.

London and Beijing both jostle annually with this blizzardy problem. Yet whilst London currently aspires lethargically to the notion of ‘Big Society’, Beijing mucks in without second thought.


This Thursday, snow engulfed Beijing overnight. By mid-morning, all major roads and pathways were clear. By lunchtime, barely a surface remained covered.

How? Partly through the efforts of Police Officers, Stewards, Street Cleaners and Contractors. But to an even greater extent, this feat was made possible by virtually every single citizen picking up a shovel. Beijing’s residents didn’t just clear their own drive on Thursday morning, they cleared their neighbours’, the nearby pavement, and the bus stop down the road. Beijing’s big society.

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In London, the ‘Big Society’ is a current Cameron Conservative buzzword. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond suggested last December, for example, that grit be made publically available. London’s very own big society, flocking to distribution points with enthusiasm and community spirit. As if.

Why should we? We pay taxes for people to shovel snow and scatter grit. Besides, we get to have a good old-fashioned moan about the unparalleled shambles from the comfort of our warm homes, in which we remain stranded, even on a working day.

Does Beijing take the day off work? As if. They don’t even get the pleasure of an extended coffee break to natter about snow disruption – the problem was solved before it began.



London will never generate the big society needed to tackle snow shocks. But it is equally regrettable that Beijing will never escape its big society tendencies which eradicate all perks of meteorological misfortune.

But, I, as a Londoner in Beijing, am uniquely positioned to revel in the advantages of both, whilst sidestepping their relative failings. I walk confidently on Beijing’s pavements, cleared of danger, all the while having a nice moan about the inability of my fellow Londoners to do so ourselves.

So don’t buy a shovel, and don’t believe any of that community mumbo jumbo.

Get yourself a flight to Beijing instead.


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