Today’s China Readings June 6, 2012

Beijing chose the United Nations World Environment Day to demand that foreign embassies stop disseminating air quality information. The Wall Street Journal writes in U.S. Air Monitoring in China: Vienna Violation? that a senior environmental official stated that the US embassy effort “is not in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and it is also against relevant environmental protection regulations.”

In China Soft-Power Watch: @BeijingAir Edition James Fallows nicely articulates the unfortunate optics of this statement: “Billions for international PR campaigns, and defensive censorship about public health data? Huffiness about “the Vienna Convention”? Sigh. The country is better than this.”

In case you were hoping for more air transparency from the Chinese environmental bureaucracy, China Daily tells us that Beijing will no longer count ‘blue sky days’.

Is the fact that no major English media seems to have noted Beijing made these air quality statements on World Environment Day a sign of the irrelevance of the UN’s efforts?

Continuing with the pollution theme, Caijing Magazine’s latest cover story–Toxic Soil Threatens Urban Areas–is a disturbing look (the cover image says it all) at the reuse of polluted land sites with no environmental cleanup. Think urban EPA Superfund sites, on a China scale?

The soil story follows last month’s Caixin Magazine story on polluted tap water–The Dirty Truth about Water Quality. As I wrote about the water story “not delivering the goods, and specifically not delivering healthy water, is very dangerous for the stability of any government. China has massive water problems and some sort of water-related unrest should be an increasing concern.” A similar statement probably applies to siting apartments on toxic sites.

Just in case you thought the tea was safe to drink, check out this disturbing Caijing story about pesticide use in tea production–Banned Tea Exports Compel China to Improve Pesticide Standards. Perhaps there is hope for improvement if the tea growers lose money unless they change their practices.

No wonder so many people with means want to get their kids out of the country. (note to self…)

The Yang Kun corruption case may be a real headache for Macau casinos. The South China Morning Post reports in Beijing anti-graft team is on the trail of casino losses that “Beijing has major Macau casinos in its sights as it seeks hard evidence of bribery and money laundering amid a snowballing investigation into a senior banker and a secretive businessman on the mainland.”

It sounds like Volkswagen could have a serious China corruption problem. The 21st Century Herald is reporting in 涉案数千万人民币:一汽大众销售副总静国松被调查 that Jing Guosong, sales vice president for FAW-Volkswagen, is under investigation for “economic problems” and that another manager recently committed suicide by jumping off a building.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau’s release of data that appears to show there are 3.8 million empty apartments in Beijing has caused a stir (北京核对空置房屋381万户 标注出租屋139万户_新浪网). Bets on if they try to walk back from this economically damaging number? Meanwhile, a Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development official insists there is no loosening of the real estate restrictions (China’s property controls to stay – Xinhua), in spite of Xinhua discussions of “micro-adjustments” (刚需释放吹不起市场泡沫 “回暖”难言房价再次暴涨 – 新华财经) and a move by Hebei Province to slightly relax the purchase restriction policies (河北拟对限购等楼市调控政策进行微调-财经网.)

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The best way to see this blog is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still blocked here. The email signup page is here, outside the GFW. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop. Comments/tips/suggestions are welcome, and feel free to forward to recommend to friends, as the more readers I have the better the content will become. And of course if you are feeling generous donations are always appreciated. Thanks for reading.

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