English lesson in Hong Kong – How Serious is Air Pollution in China?


Rob: Hello I’m Rob. Welcome to 6 Minute English lesson in Hong Kong. I’m joined today by Finn. Hello Finn.

Finn: Hello Rob.

Rob: In this programme we’re talking about a serious problem that has been

affecting some of the big cities in China: that’s air pollution.

Finn: Yes, or better known as smog. Smog is polluted air that is a mixture of

smoke and fog. I’ve experienced this in Shanghai and it’s not a nice thing to

breathe in.

Rob: It certainly isn’t good for your health. We’ll talk more about this soon and

explain some pollution-related vocabulary. But let’s start with a question for

you, Finn. According to research by the World Health Organisation, which

country has the city with the world’s worst air pollution? Is it:

a) China

b) India

c) Iran

Finn: Well, I think it definitely used to be China. I’m going to say it’s still China.

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Rob: We’ll find out if you are right later on. Let’s talk more now about the pollution

problem which is choking – or making it difficult to breathe in – many

Chinese cities.

Finn: Pollution is a word that can describe anything that damages something that is

pure. So light pollution is when a pure dark sky is contaminated – or spoiled

by street lights and lights in the city.

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Rob: And noise pollution is when loud or annoying sounds like traffic noise spoil a

quiet and peaceful environment. But the smog affecting Chinese cities is a

form of air pollution – clean air has become dirty.

Finn: Yes. Well, smog used to be a problem in other world cities like London, where

a combination of fog and smoke from factories and trains sometimes made

the air quite dirty and dangerous.

Rob: Yes, sometimes the air was so dirty and so thick they described it as a ‘peasouper’

– meaning as thick as pea soup!

Finn: A ‘pea-souper’ – that’s good isn’t it! In Los Angeles, fumes – that’s the bad

gases from car engines – and poor weather conditions used to cause poor air

quality. But now, new laws and a change in technology mean the air in these

cities is cleaner and safer. So, Rob, why is it bad in China now?

6 Minute English ©British Broadcasting Corporation 2014

Page 2 of 4

Rob: Well Finn, China is becoming more industrialised. That means more factories

are being built, and more electricity is needed, and that often comes from

coal-fired power stations. And of course, more people are driving cars.

Finn: Yes they are. Well, at certain times last year, the air was so poisonous in

Shanghai that children were not allowed outside and schools were closed.

Rob: Generally, the air is a threat to public health. It’s particularly bad for people

with asthma – and it could lead to lung cancer. In the capital Beijing,

pollution regularly goes over the safety limits set by the World Health

Organization (WHO). So what can be done?

Finn: Well, the BBC’s David Shukman has been investigating the problem and found

that the Chinese authorities are spending £180 billion on cleaning up the air.

Chinese News – china working class in Beijing

See if you can hear what the two main things are that they’re trying to do in


David Shukman, BBC Science Editor:

Well first, they’re closing down any power stations within the city that burn coal, that’s the

biggest source of pollution; next they’re trying to limit road traffic – greener cars will get

priority. And officials say they’re confident they can clean up.

Rob: So the plan is to close down coal-fired power stations because they are the

source – or the place where most of the pollution comes from.

Finn: Yes, and the other plan is to limit – to set a maximum amount of – traffic on

the roads. Greener cars will be allowed on the roads first – they will have


Rob: Of course ‘greener’ isn’t referring to the colour of the car, Finn – it’s a term to

describe something that causes less pollution and is better for the


Finn: So these are the cars that use less fuel or might use cleaner fuel that has less

particles in it that usually make the air dirty. Officials believe that this green

technology will clean up the air.

Rob: China is also going to use more renewable energy – this is power made by

natural materials that never get used up, such as wind and water. This would

reduce air pollution caused by burning coal.

Finn: Yes, well of course, all these changes will take a long time. But Rob, it’s time

now for you to tell me the answer to today’s question.

Rob: Yes, earlier I asked you, according to research by the World Health

Organisation, which country has the city with the world’s worst air pollution?

Finn: I thought it was a) China.

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Rob: You did but the answer is Iran.

Finn: Is it now?! Which city?

Rob: Apparently the city of Ahwaz. Now, before we go, Finn, could you remind us of

some of the vocabulary that we’ve heard today?

6 Minute English ©British Broadcasting Corporation 2014

Page 3 of 4

Finn: OK. We had:

air pollution










renewable energy

Rob: Well, that brings us to the end of today’s 6 Minute English course in Hong Kong. We hope you’ve

enjoyed today’s programme. Please join us again soon.

Finn: Please do.

Rob: Bye bye.

Finn: Bye.

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On a recent Wednesday night, Ms. Shang, 40, sat patiently at a downtown Beijing branch of Haidilao, a restaurant chain that defies China’s well-earned reputation for lousy customer service. A Haidilao employee buffed and painted her nails, free. The aroma from bubbling broth-filled pots lingered in the air.


Ms. Shang wasn’t planning to stay to eat after she got her pink, glittery nails done. For her, the food was secondary to the experience.


“I find Haidilao’s special services so entertaining,” said Ms. Shang, who comes to Haidilao every week to get her manicures. “Like the free pedicures, the photo printing machine, Chinese checkers and origami.”Hot pot, in which diners cook their own meat and vegetables in a boiling broth, is a favorite meal in China. And Haidilao is China’s most popular hot pot chain, mostly because of how employees go all out to greet, serve and entertain.


Haidilao hopes people outside China will be as captivated. It is set to raise nearly $1 billion on Wednesday in an initial public offering in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city where foreign investors are free to buy up shares. It wants to use the money to expand, including beyond its overseas locations in California and New York as well as other countries.

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But outside China, it could be a harder sell.“It was disgusting that people were waiting and having their nails clipped,” Joel Silverstein, chief executive of the East West Hospitality Group, a restaurant consultancy based in Hong Kong, said of a Haidilao outlet he visited in mainland China.

但是在中国以外,它要推销自己可能会更难。“人们一边等餐一边修指甲是令人作呕的,”香港餐厅咨询公司东西迎客集团(East West Hospitality Group)的首席执行官乔伊·西尔弗斯坦(Joel Silverstein)谈到他去过的一家海底捞中国大陆门店时说。

“In the U.S., it would be a total violation of health codes to be doing that stuff,” he added. “But the thing I’ve learned about China is, Chinese people love over-the-top service as long as they don’t have to pay for it.”


A different chain made global headlines when a diner found a dead rat in her hot pot. The Chinese company vowed to get to the bottom of the matter.


In a country where service without a smile is still the norm in many places, Haidilao earns its loyalty. Customers are offered free shoe-shining services and board games while they wait. Diners can watch a traditional Sichuan opera show. Eating with toddlers? “A “playground sister” will keep them entertained.Patrons in China sometimes line up for hours to get into one of Haidilao’s nearly 300 domestic restaurants. A 2016 survey of 2,600 people conducted by OC&C, a consulting firm, ranked Haidilao as China’s favorite restaurant. Its dining experience was cited in a Harvard Business School case study in 2011.


“The staff here gives you the feeling that you are a family member,” said Liu Lu, 42, a stay-at-home mother who said that the chain’s employees would arrange a crib for her baby so she could indulge in the hot pot without a care.


Hot pot — known in China as huo guo, or fire pot — was originally consumed to ward off the cold of winter. It is now a year-round cuisine. Chinese diners love the participatory nature of the cooking process: People gather around a pot of boiling broth, dunk their meats in it, fish them out and dip them into sauces. The time spent cooking gives people time to socialize.Haidilao’s name originates from a Sichuanese mah-jongg term that connotes winning. While the chain offers a wide variety of broths, it is known mainly for its Sichuan-style spicy hot pot.

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Zhang Yong, a former tractor-factory worker, founded Haidilao originally with just four tables in his hometown, Jianyang, a city in Sichuan Province in China’s southwest.


“I didn’t know how to make soup or cook any ingredients,” Mr. Zhang told Huang Tieying, a Peking University professor who wrote a 2011 book called “You Can’t Copy Haidilao.”


“In order to satisfy people, I gave away more than I sold,” he said. “As a result, customers were still willing to come back, even though my food wasn’t that good.”


Even a string of food safety scandals has not dented confidence in the brand.


Last year, a viral video taken in two Beijing outlets by an undercover Chinese journalist showed rat-infested kitchens, dishwashers covered with grease and staff members cleaning sewers with a soup ladle. In June, the Chinese news media reported that a customer in one of the previous offending outlets found a fly in the dipping sesame sauce.


In both instances, Haidilao apologized and promised to overhaul food safety in all its restaurants.


Now, customers can watch a live-stream video of the kitchen from a flat-screen television hung on the wall or through tablets on their tables. They are also welcome to personally observe the food being prepared.“The food is very clean; other hot pot restaurants have food that isn’t that fresh,” said Liu Yali, a teacher who eats at the chain every two to three days. “Whenever my friends want to gather, we always choose Haidilao.”


Hot pot, including at Haidilao, has made inroads near Chinese communities in the United States and elsewhere. The question for Haidilao is whether hot pot — and the chain’s over-the-top customer service — will draw a broader group of foreigners the same way.


“If they want to be popular overseas, they’ll have to adjust their services and menu,” said Darcy Zhang, a Shanghai-based food blogger who is a fan of Haidilao. “In other countries, some of their services might feel too exaggerated.”

“如果在外国受欢迎,他们的现有服务和菜单要做调整,”上海的美食博主达西·张(Darcy Zhang,音)说,她是海底捞的支持者。“对于外国来说,他们有一些服务,会有一点点,太夸张了。”

“For example, a customer will go and wash their hands and the staff will be waiting outside with tissue paper and a huge smile,” she added. “Perhaps foreigners might find that quite creepy.”


Chinese Idioms – dedicate myself to the service of my country