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David Wertime

Where Does Beijing’s Pollution Come From?

In January alone, a stifling and noxious haze twice enveloped the Chinese capital of Beijing, pushing air quality indexes literally off the charts and inciting widespread outrage both on-line and off. Pollution — and the outcry surrounding it — has gotten so severe that, according to the New York Times, Beijing has taken emergency measures which “include temporarily shutting down more than 100 factories and ordering one-third of government vehicles off the streets.”

But China’s Web users continue to search for answers. Sohu Business recently released an infographic which seeks to explain the origin of Beijing’s airborne pollutants, on Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging platform. Tea Leaf Nation translates, with thanks to ChinaFile‘s David Barreda for adapting the graphic.

Although the image’s inclusion of Taiwan and the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in China’s territory is sure to rankle some readers, its core insight is a powerful one. It points a finger squarely at China’s state-run oil companies, in particular their failure to invest in desulphurization. The graphic has been shared by more than 10,000 Weibo users since its January 29 release — and on February 2, oil giant Sinopec announced plans to upgrade 12 of its refining facilities by the end of 2013.

infographic from Sohu Business
infographic from Sohu Business
infographic from Sohu Business
infographic from Sohu Business
infographic from Sohu Business
infographic from Sohu Business
infographic from Sohu Business
infographic from Sohu Business

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.zheng.50 Chris Zheng

    Well, that explains a lot. Really helpful!!

  • Chinese person

    Thanks, very cool information! I cannot find the link to the original source – could you point it out to me?

  • Jahar

    Cool, but I just gotta play devil’s advocate and say, they could have just made all that up and we wouldn’t know. Where did they get the info?

    • tealeafnation

      Hi Jahar, your desire to see sources is a fair one! In fact, the original graphic included names of articles used as reference material, but did not provide the links. Sohu Business is a very trusted source, but it may be helpful/interesting to get ahold of those links. We will look into it. Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.wageindicator.org fonstuinstra

    I’m pretty amazed about the low percentage for coal as a pollutant. So, yes, more sources would be welcome

  • fdawei

    Excellent graphic with abundant details. Many thanks, David. Incidentally, I can no longer receive the RSS Feed of TeaLeaf Nation in Beijing. Any suggestions?.

    • tealeafnation

      Hi fdawei, that is definitely a problem! And we’d like to help fix it. Can you tell me when you encountered the problem? Does it simply not show up? Perhaps it was connected to the hacking of our site on November 11, 2012. We are at editors@tealeafnation.com; any help is most appreciated.

  • Tim Buckley

    Very insightful – surely the Chinese government must act to accelerate National Standard IV and V – the health costs of not doing so will be huge.

  • Dan Nilenko

    This is great data. Forgive my poor wordsmanship(or sarcasm), but the REAL problem is that unlike other cities in the US except Los Angeles, Beijing lacked foresight to knock down the mountains around it so that the bad air is blown away from contamination creation points. Boston/New York/Chicago etc, did this, and now all their bad air is blown out to sea/lake/away from them.

    Ok, that off my chest… LA’s air is better in the past few decades, and likely due to the tighter emission standards in California. But LAs air is not perfect (or not as good at Topeka Kansas). What about terrain in these models/data.

  • Dan Nilenko

    Another way to address emission standards for would be for Sinopec and gang to do what I ASSUME ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, et al. do, which is merely pass on most of the costs of higher standards to the consumer. I’m not clear on why anyone really expects companies (Chinese or otherwise) to eat 100% of the cost of emissions control.