As Beijing and other parts of eastern China were blanketed by continued record-breaking pollution, the official media has offered up a surprising amount of transparency. Pollution is often played down by official media, and the Chinese government has bristled at efforts by foreign governments to collect data on air quality at their embassies. But when readings on air quality indices went off the charts over the weekend, domestic media reports almost immediately began reporting on the extent of the problem, informing readers about the data used to measure air quality and discussing long-term solutions. From the New York Times:
The across-the-board coverage of Beijing’s brown, soupy air, which has been consistently rated “hazardous” or even worse by foreign and local monitors since last week, was the most open in recent memory. Since 2008, when Beijing made efforts to clean up the city before the Summer Olympics, the air has appeared to degrade in the view of many residents, though the official news media have often avoided addressing the problem.
The wide coverage on Monday appears to be in part a reaction to the conversation that has been unfolding on Chinese microblogs, where residents of northern China have been discussing the pollution nonstop in recent days.
The problem is so serious — the worst air quality since the United States Embassy began recording levels in 2008 — that hospitals reported on Monday a surge in patient admissions for respiratory problems. Beijing officials ordered government cars off the road to try to curb the pollution, which some people say has been exacerbated by a weather phenomenon, called an inversion, that is trapping dirty particles.
“I’ve never seen such broad Chinese media coverage of air pollution,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, a business consultant in Beijing who tracks the Chinese news media. “From People’s Daily
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