The decision by Chen Guangbiao to sell the cans of air isn’t actually an attempt at a profit-generating venture. Rather, Chen, already worth a reported $740 million, is using the cans as social commentary on the declining environmental conditions in China.
"If we don't start caring for the environment, then after 20 or 30 years our children and grandchildren might be wearing gas masks and carry oxygen tanks," Chen told Fairfax Media.
Still, it's hard to not think of Mel Brooks in "Spaceballs" shotgunning a can of "Perri-Air," as his planet deals with a crisis stemming from a lack of oxygen.
Chen is selling the cans for about five yuan each (80 cents), according to the Brisbane Times, and the cans come in a variety of “flavors,” including “Taiwan,” “Tibet,” and “Yan'an,” early home of the country’s Communist Party.
The American Embassy in Beijing issued its second recent alert this week about the level of airborne PM 2.5 particulates, which it says can lead to a number of health issues, particularly for children and the elderly.
As recently as Friday morning Beijing time, the embassy measured a “very unhealthy” warning on its site.
The World Health Organization's standard is levels of around 25. The levels in Beijing’s atmosphere according to the U.S. Embassy peaked at 205 on Friday morning, nearly 10 times that standard limit.
Chen is known in China for other high-profile acts to promote environmental causes. He recently gave away 5,000 bicycles to encourage people to pursue alternatives to driving cars.
"People say I am high profile or love to stage a show, but I don't think those who seek 'stability' and a low profile can do much for social progress," he said.