Thick air in Beijing – Air pollution as a political issue

  • Meryl Burgess


Air pollution in the big cities in China, especially the capital, Beijing, is a very visible problem. A news report by Reuters illustrated the pollution problem vividly as, “a cocktail of smokestack emissions, vehicle exhaust, dust and aerosols, have at times blanketed Beijing in a pungent, beige shroud for days over the past months.” The exposure to high levels of pollution led to an outcry from angry and frustrated Chinese on the internet, many of them airing their grievances on the social media sites such as the popular Chinese blog site, Weibo. Many of them were complaining that government officials were failing to level with them about the air quality, not being transparent about the levels of pollution. Protesting Chinese also believed that the government was not doing enough to improve the state of the environment. Environmental protection increasingly becomes a (high-level) political issue.