At times over the past few months, I have feared that the US Embassy might cave in to diplomatic pressure and close down their BeijingAir Twitter feed. At first I was worried about the recently wikileaking of a diplomatic cable describing Chinese officials’ concern that the Embassy data were “insulting” and causing “undesirable ‘social consequences.'” Then, more recently, I worried that the public tone used by Chinese media to defend Beijing’s air quality was become more aggressive (the suggestion to wear masks is “unnecessary scaremongering“; the Embassy’s “way of releasing (the data) is more like hype). I wondered if someone higher up in the US government might pull the plug.
Well, it seems my fear was unfounded. It looks like the Embassy is doing the opposite from backing down and laying low – they are doubling down and taking steps to publicize their data even more! Today I received the “American Citizen Bulletin” from the Embassy. The second news item, right after the announcement about holiday closures, was:
FOLLOW THE EMBASSY’S AIR QUALITY MONITOR
The Embassy has an air quality monitor <http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/070109air.html> to measure PM 2.5 particulates on the Embassy compound as an indication of the air quality in Beijing. Although citywide analysis cannot be done on data from a lone machine, this monitor is a resource for the health of the community. It is updated hourly.
Sure enough, the BeijingAir Twitter data are now visible, inside the Great Firewall, right on the Embassy’s website.
However, in what may be at least a slight nod to diplomacy, I did notice that only the English version of the site has the data on it; the Chinese version has the explanation translated directly, but the column where the data should be is blank: