How the U.S. embassy in Beijing stuck it to the Chinese government over air pollution

Every year Beijing’s brutal air quality (and even brutal-er public reporting on it) makes international news. But this year Beijing finds itself with a domestic P.R. problem in which its own citizens are no longer willing to accept the gov’s Orwellian “blue sky days”, “fog” and “light” pollution levels. And a large amount of the credit goes to… the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

From Beijing Air Pollution Brouhaha:
“Since flights at Beijing’s airport have been canceled on any number of occasions over the past two decades because of pollution, why all the attention now?

“Several reasons… But the real catalyst for the current contretemps is the U.S. Embassy. If Beijing citizens were once resigned to living in this alternative state of reality, then that’s no longer the case. The U.S. Embassy has changed the way the game is played. On a daily basis, the embassy tweets data reflecting the real air quality for the area in which the embassy resides. Last Sunday, for example, as NPR reported, the pollution recorded by the embassy hit a level described as “beyond index.” The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, in contrast, reported the air pollution as “light.””


We’ve got lots of our own stuff on pollution in the Beijing area, including comparison photos. See our Pollution category for everything.

One thought on “How the U.S. embassy in Beijing stuck it to the Chinese government over air pollution”

  1. From the ground level, this smog-fog can really, really be unbearable. It’s no doubt this thick stuff is a combo of both fog (temp inversion and humidity of the sorts) and heavy pollution, all getting stuck because of the mountains to the north (the LA-effect). From a high-story building, it can be seen moving into the city like an horror movie. It smells foul and gives you a headache. If you arrive on a “good day”, you may be fooled that eveyday is sunny and fresh, but within a couple of days, it rolls right back until a heavy rain or strong wind from the north blows it away. Beijing Big Brother does not like to be told how bad it is (it’s just not profitable), so local residents just live with it (what can they do really about it?).

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