“The farthest distance on earth is when you stand in Tiananmen Square, but cannot see Mao’s image.”
This sarcastic description of the air quality in Beijing in the past few days by netizen 徐昕 has been shared more than 54,000 times at the time of this post. Almost all media outlets in the word have been or will be talking about the more-than-hazardous smog choking Beijing since Saturday. Roads were closed, constructions were told to halt, and even schools were closed to prevent students being exposed in toxic air for long hours. But believe it or not, Beijing is not the worst. In fact, Beijing is not even among the worst 10…
On this past Saturday, PM2.5 – tiny particulates harmful to human health – had once exceeded 900 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing. Under normal conditions, a measurement of 300 is considered hazardous, and PM 2.5 monitors usually only record up to 500. But even with a PM 2.5 value several hundred higher than the upper bound, Beijing can still be said to be OK if compared with other cities in China.
On the same Saturday, People’s Daily, Chinese government’s official newspaper, released a list of top 10 cities with worst air pollution based on real-time air monitoring data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Beijing is not on the list. The worst 10 were Shijiazhuang, Handan, Baoding, Tangshan, Tianjin, Zhenzhou, Jinan, Qinhuangdao, Jining, Ürümchi and Wuhan. Among these cities, there were coastal cities near Beijing, inland cities in the middle of China and cities in the far west. While everybody is talking about the air quality in Beijing, these cities received far less media attention.
A comparison of PM2.5 measurements in a few places across China on Monday tells a story beyond the walls of Beijing. While Beijing is back to a under-500 number, both Jinan and Xi’an have a reading “beyond index”.
@EdSander on Twitter: “Xi’an just went off the scale. It currently is THE most polluted city in China and thereby probably the world”
But like in any apocalypse, when something dies, something else thrives. This time during China’s airpocalypse, the winner is 3M. 3M’s Particulate Respirator N95 and its other masks are selling like crazy now. A search of “3M” on Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblogging service, returned more than 50 pages of conversations. Some netizens showed off newly-purchased 3M masks, others were making plans of purchase one or many.
Netizen J雪竹 posted on Weibo: “This is Beijing Style.”