A Comparison of US vs. Chinese News Coverage: Pollution

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I've written twice before, comparing Western and Chinese news coverage of the same story (Obama visit to China and Internet registration). In both cases, it was interesting to see how the reports read very differently despite presenting the same basic facts; differences in tone, emphasis, and inclusion/omission of other facts can really change how the story comes across.

AQI 493 from my office window

Today, I was reading about how Beijing will start reporting a new air pollution measure - PM 2.5 (2.5 micron particulate matter). I've written before several times about the gross Beijing air. We relied on the US Embassy's air quality Twitter feed that showed what we thought was a more accurate view of what we were seeing outside; Chinese official reports measured the larger PM10 particles and would say we were having only minor air pollution even when we couldn't see outside.

The report from China Daily acknowledges the dangers of PM2.5 and how the government is responding to "public criticism". They describe the effort as similar to what other cities in China have been doing and that the government is already taking action to clean up Beijing air. There is no mention of the US Embassy's Twitter feed. There is also a story (higher on the front page) describing how Beijing's PM 2.5 count is down. The story paints a picture of the government taking action and listening to the people. "Beijing to release PM 2.5 data".

The similar story from the New York Times described the actions as a response to "public outcry", "public's anger", and bloggers who "sharply criticized" the government. NYT puts a lot more emphasis on the effect of the US Embassy Twitter feed as well as mentioning how Twitter is blocked in China, and talks about the Chinese complained about the feed as "confusing" and "insulting". This story leaves the reader thinking the people are mad at the government and that the gov't needs outside pressure to change. "China to Release More Data on Air Pollution in Beijing".

Again, both of these stories seem factually correct, and perhaps the "right" interpretation is somewhere in the middle. You'll never know unless you read multiple news sources.

China in Ten Minutes

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Of course, it's ridiculous to think you can understand China, the history, culture, and economy in even ten years, but this video does a pretty good job in ten minutes (with lots of gross generalizations, etc...)

Why Tones in Chinese are So Important

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This is a funny example illustrating why the tones (rising/falling pitches) in Chinese are so important.

shuijiao

These two example sentences are pronounced the same way, as you can see from the Pinyin (English pronunciation guide), but the tones are different.

The first sentence says, "Miss, how much does it cost for a bowl of dumplings?"

The second sentence says, "Miss, how much does it cost to sleep [together] for a night?"

Very different meanings...

Waiting for the iPad2 in China

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This week I’m back in Beijing for the first time since we moved back to the US. It just so happens that I walked past the Apple Store in the posh Sanlitun Village shopping mall last night, the night of the iPad2 availability in China. There was a huge line at least 100+ people deep sitting outside the store. Inside, there were big curtains up so people couldn’t see into the store. Here’s the end of the line. The big white circle of light at the top is actually the Apple logo. The line extends under that sign and around the corner to the left.

ipad2 launch

Last day in China

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It's hard to believe that it's already been 2.5 years since I announced we were moving to China. I'm sitting in a hotel room in Beijing right now on my last night here, ready to fly in the morning. Michelle and the kids went back to Bellevue a few weeks ago so the boys could start school at the beginning of a new semester as I finished packing up in Beijing.

I've learned a lot during our time in China. I definitely have a more nuanced view of China through this experience. And, as is always the case when you travel overseas, I think I've learned more about my own country. I'll probably reflect and write more on these in the next few weeks.

I'm happy to have made a lot of friends while here. It's always hard to leave friends, but I'm fortunate that most of my friends will come to Seattle regularly, plus I expect to travel back to Beijing occasionally on business.

While I will miss my friends and many things about China, I'm really looking forward to being home again. At the end of the day, I'm American, and Seattle is home.

Chinese Steak Doneness System

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When you order a steak in China (typically at a Western steak house), they will often not understand what you mean by "medium-rare", etc. Aside from the language issues, they use a different , numerically based system here.

Rare

  • Very red and cool center == #3: 三成(sān chéng)-肉很红且凉

Medium rare

  • Red, warm center == #4: 四成(sì chéng)-肉红,中心温热

Medium

  • Pink center == #5: 五成(wǔ chéng)-中心粉红色

Medium well

  • Slightly pink center == #7 七成(qī chéng)-浅粉红色 (I presume #6 is between Medium and Medium well)

Well done

  • Cooked throughout == 全熟(quán shú)-全部烤熟,无粉红色

Baidu blogging in English (and English sites about the Chinese Internet)

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Baidu, the largest search engine in China, has started an English language blog called Baidu Beat (beat.baidu.com) to comment on Internet trends in China, expanding on their top queries (top.baidu.com). Here’s a link to a good recent post on top internet phenomenon.

If you’re interested, other good English-language sites that comment on the Chinese internet industry and trends are chinaSmack, China Hush, and TechRice. TechRice has a good list of other China tech news sources too.

Tang Hu Lu

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It's definitely winter in Beijing now. With the cold weather comes a typical Beijing treat -- tang hu lu (糖葫芦). These are Chinese hawthorn fruits on a stick that are candied in a sugar glaze. The fruit is cut in half and pitted, then put back together on the stick. It's really a great combination with the sugary goodness balancing the tart hawthorn. I think they're quite lovely too. You can now get other fruit like kiwis and strawberries done this way sometimes, but hawthorns are the real deal.

In addition to shops and stalls, you'll see people selling tang hu lu off the back of a bike. Regardless, they're always poked into a round stand like below.

IMG_1307

Here's Michael (10) enjoying his tang hu lu this evening (artsy photo courtesy of More Lomo, an iPhone app.)

Michael eating tang hulu