Feel free to breath the dirty air

The infamous Beijing smug stroke again a few days ago. The situation was so dire that even some Chinese official acknowledged that China should adopt a better standard to measure the air quality and to report the results to the public. However, air pollution is not something new to ordinary Chinese as well as the lack of government effort to protect citizens from such hazard.

This time the authority was embarrassed by data released from the Beijing Embassy of the United States. The Embassy has installed meters on a roof to measure the level of fine particulates PM2.5 (particules smaller than 2.5 micron) and updated the information hourly via a Twitter thread. Instead, the Chinese government only reports the level of PM10, particulates bigger than 10 micron, and conveniently omits the PM2.5. It’s scientifically well known that PM2.5 particulates penetrate deeply into the lung beyond the protection by cilia, and presumably do much sever damage to human health. Health complications of inhaling PM2.5 particles might include pulmonary and cardiovascular disease such as asthma and bronchitis. More science still needs to be done to differentiate the effects of different types of PM2.5 particles.

In response to the data from the US Embassy, Chinese official asks the public not to trust the readings from the US embassy roof (I know the existence of this device perhaps more than two years ago from reading James Fallows blog at Atlantic.com).

A more interesting report emerged from New York Times. China’s high authorities in Beijing are protected from breathing the dirty air by some extravagant air purifiers.

NASA published a satellite data map about PM2.5 pollution worldwide from year 2001 to year 2006 (see below). At anywhere in the world, you might inhale numerous PM2.5 particles per breath. According to the satellite image, the number stays several fold higher if you happen to be living in China which has some highest readout in the map.

Steve Jobs, and the iPhone made in China

I know out there countless tributes have been paid and still are being paid to the premature death of Steve Jobs from all over the world. In China, from state-owned media outlets to netizens with microblogs, the nation is definitely well aware of the news.

Like other people elsewhere, I owned a few Apple items including an iPod Touch, an iPad and a Mac Air laptop. A few days, I had a discussion with one of my friends, saying that you will hate your cuttie little Apple gadgets if you care to think about the conditions for the people working for Foxxcom, a contractor of Apple, which makes the iphones and other Apple products.

Last year, 13 workers jumped to their death in a few months’s period because of their intolerable factory life.

We are familiar with the claim “Designed by Apple in California, manufactured in China” imprinted in every iPhone. I don’t know how other people respond to that. But making a trendy product with sweat labors does not seem revolutionarily innovative. People used to pursue exotic fashion and cuisine by driving wild species extinct. Now, the contemporary goes to people’s desire for chic electronic accessaries at the expense of other humans to whom they are not geographically and emotionally related.

The Foxcomm tragedies are indeed overall a Chinese problem. A factory owned by Taiwanese Chinese operates in mainland, which employs Chinese workers and is subject to regulations imposed by local and national Chinese governments. It is Chinese job to clean this up. Of course, we know the Chinese legal system was not designed for justice, as usual.

I am not sure how much legal stake that Apple has in China. For any standard, it is certainly minimal for the Foxxcom debacles. The Taiwanese company kept its operation, still making Apple product, and it would have expanded to Chengdu, a interior city in Sichuan, seeking even cheaper labor cost.

Do we really need iPhone, iPod or Mac Air so badly like we need a light bulb, an automobile, or an aircraft? (see this article from Christian Science Monitor). Do we need them so badly that none of Chinese factory girl’s death seemed to hold us back? Do we need them so badly that we worship a successful tech. business executive like a legend?