1. Resources: While supplies last

Tension had been mounting across Beijing for weeks. Rumors of an impending government crackdown flowed freely, made all the more credible by the denials in the official press. Inevitably, violence erupted.

This was on the eve of the car license plate quota system’s launch in 2010.

The municipal government had been working for months on a plan to control Beijing’s worsening traffic, which threatened to make the city unnavigable. In the final months of the year, rumors began to spread that limits would soon be imposed on the number of new cars registered in the city. Beijingers rushed to buy cars before an unknown new regime made the process exorbitantly expensive or altogether impossible. Inventories dwindled ...

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