BBC News website accessed at 9.57pm Shanghai time (+8GMT).
Well, you know the air must be extremely polluted to be featured on the BBC News Homepage, just below the article where an European country sent a special task force to save a hostage, which ended in failure.
Yes, air pollution in China is comparable to a botched hostage rescue operation in Somalia (okay, and Greek tax hike).
Shanghai and Beijing aren’t known for their fresh air, though one can argue that air quality is rarely good in major cities, let alone cities in a developing country. But from my experience, I do feel a difference in my respiration on certain days – irritated nose with sneezing, even though I am not sick – and when I correspond these days with my handy bookmark of the US Consulate Shanghai Air Quality Monitor, those are usually the days with an Air Quality Index (AQI) over 150, id est “Unhealthy”.
“Unhealthy,” though it is almost the norm in the air quality in Shanghai. Moderate air quality is far and few between; they usually only show up on the hourly index at 3-4pm, and it had a brief spell late September to early October. So in a way, night shift taxi drivers have probably the job with the best air quality around Shanghai; provided that they don’t smoke a pack in one shift.
Air quality has been especially terrible these few days, and these are screen grabs from the US Embassy (Beijing) and Consulate (Shanghai) for today.
Beijing Air Quality Index for 1/12/2013.
Log of Shanghai AQI readings.
… and the legend. In the half year that I check this feed regularly, I have only seen “Good” in less than 5 occasions.
At the moment, or throughout today, the air pollution in Beijing is so terrible that it is literally off the charts. The AQI from Particulate Matter 2.5 is over 700, and the chart only reaches 500, with the reference/legend stating that anything above 300 is Hazardous.
But are these data right? Am I right? Is it a plot, a conspiracy, an imperialistic scheme to discredit the glorious country of the People’s Republic of China? I also checked the website of the Ministry of Environment Protection of PRC; they have a daily reading of AQI from Particulate Matter 10. One can argue that PM2.5 is a more relevant parameter in measuring air quality, since smaller particles are more damaging to the lungs, and the frigging WHO recommends air quality standards on the basis of PM2.5.
Nonetheless, it is still an air quality index put up by the Chinese government to inform citizens on their living conditions in the most glorious and civilized country in the world (on par with North Korea? but surely NK has better air quality).
Let’s take a look at their data. And stop panicking.
Chinese Ministry Air Quality Index
Air quality for Shanghai, and a neat and tidy bar graph for all of China. Who doesn’t like shiny bar graphs?
Yeah, you heard me. STOP PANICKING!
Beijing is only mildly polluted, though visibility in Beijing city centre is only several hundred feet, and “the air taste of coal dust and car fumes.”
Look, Shanghai is one of the least polluted city in the whole of China, probably of the whole world too. Nevermind cities like Tianjin, their air status is written in Chinese, so the foreigners can read. Don’t worry about it, even though it translates as “heavily polluted.” Maybe heavy pollution is such an embarrass thing that the Chinese don’t want foreigners to know? Nonsense!
I am sure there is an explanation for this. The imperialistic Americans are so ungrateful in publishing an Air Quality Index of two major Chinese cities where plenty of American citizens reside. Afterall, they use a system that is different than China’s, and that surely does not fit well with the Chinese culture – what do doughnut-chugging Americans know about the delicate culture of Chinese air freshness?
Just like the issues with land ownership and border disputes, Americans know nothing about such things, and does not know about the Chinese culture. They should stay back and do not hurt the feelings between the two nations.
That, or at least that explanation is the most prevalent one against Americans on all things unpatriotic for the mainland Chinese.
Meanwhile Canadians are okay, our website only have a bunch of phone numbers with plenty of text, not organized in a visually engaging way, only make the text 5 times denser, and it can resemble the prototypical Chinese website. O, and it has a maple leaf – that is like the universal sign of a peace loving country.
If you want to check out the respective AQI, here are the websites:
US Embassy (Beijing)
US Consulate (Shanghai), and if you are interested in following the respiratory distress level that I will experience, here is a twitter feed from the US Consulate @CGShanghaiAir
Chinese Ministry of Environment Protection