Why do China and the US report conflicting air pollution numbers?

The air pollution app we use just did a major update. We can now track cities outside of China, and also choose Chinese or American Air Quality Index standards:USAvChinaAQIreporting
It’s not just that each country characterizes pollution levels differently (China’s “Moderately Polluted” = America’s “Unhealthy”), they’re calculating their AQI differently. The Air Quality Index number is what the average person uses to gauge the pollution level. These screenshots show China and the U.S. arriving at different AQIs, even though they’re dealing with the same pollution data:

American_Beijing_AQI China_AQI_Beijing

The Global Times, China’s English language international mouthpiece, explains it this way:

Qiu Qihong, an engineer of the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center, said US and China use the same function to determine AQI figures from six different pollutants. However, he explained that the UStates uses a stricter system to determine what numbers to plug into the AQI formula. The formula requires a range of values of PM2.5 to calculate the number, and the US and China are using different ways to determine this range.

Qiu explained, “The US uses a stricter system because their society is further along in the industrialization process.”

This is why when PM2.5 density is transferred to AQI figures, the two countries have different readings, Qiu said.

For example, according to the standards published by both countries, if the PM2.5 density reaches 15.4 micrograms per cubic meter, according to US standards, the matching AQI figure is 50. But under Chinese standards, the density needs to reach 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

We usually turn on our DIY air purifiers when the AQI hits 200 (though the one in the kids’ bedroom is always on whenever the windows are closed). We can usually smell and/or see an AQI of 75 by China’s calculations.

Sing Praise Songs to the Communist Party!

(Emphases theirs.)

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“Heartily sing a song praising the Party’s goodness!” 高歌
” actually means grace, kindness, favour… For us it’s strongly associated with Chinese church stuff, and Chinese Christians use it in their kids’ names. So seemed kind of funny (and unintentionally ironic?) that the Party would employ the same usage; switch out “Party” for “the Lord” and it’s basically a hymn (and some quick searches for 颂主恩 did turn up some church songs). But here it’s connected to the slogan’s poetic motif, not intentionally imitating church language.

Anyone remember when hymnals used to have American patriotic songs in the back?

thepartyisgood
The Communist Party is good. Socialism is good. Reform & Opening is good.”
共产党 社会主义 改革开放
But traffic is bad…

Small and alone

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This not-yet-opened overpass arcs between brand new apartment complexes on its way to eventually run past three big shopping malls and a subway transfer station. But one last patch of protested, illegally bulldozed píngfáng 平房 currently stands in the way.

“Give us our home back!”

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“Illegal forced demolition; Give back our home” 非法强拆 家园
This rubble marks the last undeveloped plot in that particular city block. The protest banner faces the canal that used to hold Qingdao’s biggest traditional market, which has now been cleared off and is nearly finished its transformation into a riverwalk.

When we first moved to this area four years ago, we saw a couple kilometers’ worth of traditional buildings and neighbourhoods straddling and a massive, unregulated openair market. But from a birds’ eye view you’d see it as an island of Chinese blue collar chaos in a sea of rapid urban consumer-class development — on all sides glitzy malls, expensive apartment complexes, and subway station construction rumbled on incessantly. As fun as it was to live close-to-but-not-in that old school area, we guessed that it’d mostly be gone in five years’ time.

Black on white is the usual protest banner colour scheme (white on black ribbons are for funerals, red on white banners are for government propaganda, and advertising usually uses white or yellow on red).

When China’s air pollution confuses my preschool students

Sure, we cry too much about the air pollution. But this one’s darkly humourous, I promise.

I routinely ask the oldest classes, “How’s the weather?” while pointing out the windows. And they automatically take a glance and usually reply, “IT’S SUNNY!!!” (“Sunny” is their favourite. But they can do cloudy, raining, windy, snowing, hot, and cold, too.)

So today I ask them. They glance out the windows. “IT’S…” A couple weak “sunny”s peter out among the 30 students. They can’t tell if it’s sunny or cloudy.

Because even though it’s bright outside, THEY CAN’T SEE THE BLOOMIN’ SKY. There are no clouds, but it’s all grey, and where’s the sun?

Later I check, and every air quality monitoring station in the city is maxed out at 500:

Below 50 is “good”. At 100 we close all our windows and turn on all the DIY home air purifiers. At 300 the preschool cancels all its outdoor activities.

At 500… AIRPOCALYPSE! ;)

Our Chinese preschool promotes Socialism Core Values (again)

Passed this on the way in to work today. It’s the 2nd time this year they’ve strung it up. I don’t know how they choose when to display it.
Socialism_Core_Values_Banner
To find out what the Socialism Core Values actually are, see:

An unintentionally terrifying Chinese democracy poster