Normative Narratives


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Transparency Thursday: Monitoring Chinese Pollution Monitoring

Seems like pollution in China has become a weekly theme here on Transparency Thursday.

In a bit of good news, it seems like China will expand pollution monitoring in 74 of its biggest cities, starting January 1st.

“Microscopic pollutant particles in the air have killed about 8600 people prematurely this year and cost $1 billion in economic losses in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an, according to a study by Beijing University and Greenpeace that measured the pollutant levels of PM2,5, or particles smaller than 2,5 micrometres in diameter….First Beijing, then other cities have become more public about their air quality data since the US embassy in Beijing began publishing hourly data from a pollution monitor installed on embassy grounds in Beijing.”

It seems the U.S. has created a demand by the people of China for more monitoring of pollution. The Chinese government, in a somewhat surprising move, responded favorably to the demands of its citizens and installed 496 monitoring stations.

However, one must always be vary of the Chinese Communist Party’s lack of transparency and accountability. “The embassy’s monitor often diverged with official air quality readings, adding to public pressure for the city to come clean about the state of its air.” Chinese authorities may be fudging the numbers, in which case the monitoring stations will be ineffective and possibly counterproductive.

The Chinese government should allow an independent agency to review its pollution readings. However, when it comes to the Chinese government and external accountability, let’s just say I wouldn’t hold my breath.