Air with Chinese characteristics is in the news again

Beijing’s air quality is making news rounds again, partly because some Chinese bloggers discovered a company that claims to provide air purification equipment for the homes and offices of government officials, adding clean air to a long list of resented privileges. It’s long been known that Beijing and other local governments drastically downplay the pollution levels to their own populations (see our own comparisons here and here). If you aren’t familiar with the remarkable air pollution situation in Beijing, Tianjin and much of the rest of China, here are three recent articles to catch you up:

  • U.S. Embassy air quality data undercut China’s own assessments
    “Perched atop the U.S. Embassy in Beijing is a device about the size of a microwave oven that spits out hourly rebukes to the Chinese government. One day this month, the reading was so high compared with U.S. standards it was listed as ‘beyond index.’ But China’s own assessment that day was that Beijing’s air was merely ‘slightly polluted.'”
  • The Privileges of China’s Elite Include Purified Air
    “But even in their most addled moments of envy, ordinary Beijingers could take some comfort in the knowledge that the soupy air they breathe on especially polluted days also finds its way into the lungs of the privileged and pampered. Such assumptions, it seems, are not entirely accurate.”
  • ‘Time Is Not Ripe’ for Honest Air Pollution Readings
    “state-run media did little to suggest Beijing was prepared to tackle its air pollution levels, among the worst of the world’s major cities. The state-run Global Times newspaper early this week reported a dense “fog” had descended over the capital. The local government was reporting “slight” pollution levels even as readings by the U.S. Embassy described pollution as “hazardous.””

For more of our crying about how unbelievably brutal the air quality is, with pictures to help you believe (that’s right: we can photograph the air), see our Pollution category, or check out these selected bits:

2 thoughts on “Air with Chinese characteristics is in the news again”

  1. I have a slightly less technical way of determining air pollution.

    In my home here in Guangzhou I sweep/mop my floor once per week. When we stayed in Beijing for about five weeks in August/September, I had to sweep/mop the floor every three days.

    I guess that makes Beijing twice as polluted as Guangzhou (at least where I am/was)?!!

  2. I can’t say about Guangzhou, but Beijing/Tianjin really is off the charts… literally.

    Another less technical way that I discovered myself using was looking out the (closed) living room window in the morning. All we can see is the wall and yangtais of the next building over (can’t see the sky or anything far away), but on certain days the sunlight just looks a little off, even on something that close. And then, of course, you open your door to go to work and smell it right away.

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