Top 10 for 2011: our most read


China’s most pressing environmental concern in 2011 was urban air pollution. That’s the unscientific conclusion I’ve reached by looking through our most popular articles. Readers are free to reach their own conclusion, but to help you decide, here’s a run-down of the 10 most-read pieces on chinadialogue this year:


Volvo cars made in Chongqing, Ford cars made in Chengdu, portable electronics made in the Pearl River Delta: they all need plenty of metals. And the solution to China’s accelerating demand for copper and gold? Increasingly, it’s mining the Tibetan Plateau.  Gabriel Lafitte explored the impacts in chinadialogue’s tenth most popular article this year.


The catastrophic rail crash in July, on the high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai, was understood by many Chinese commentators as the fatal consequence of an economic model that “sacrifices quality and safety for the sake of rapid economic growth”. Tang Hao considered this debate. And don’t miss Lu Zongshu’s “End of the high-speed myth?” either.


Amid persistent smog in Chinese cities, a controversy swelled this year about the government’s reporting of air pollution statistics. Angel Hsu analysed the news in September that China’s environment ministry will finally bring “one of the country’s most destructive and widespread pollutants”, the tiny particulates known as PM 2.5, into national air quality standards. 


In the last two years, Beijing officials have announced good or even excellent air quality nearly 80% of the time. But a monitor atop the United States embassy paints a different picture: over 80% of days had unhealthy levels of pollution, and the air quality has been hazardous more often than good. Steven Q Andrews analysed this discrepancy to controversial effect. Here, Olivia Boyd and Meng Si caught up with him.


Another article on the theme of air pollution: Liu Xuan looked into Beijing’s traffic congestion problems and policies intended to restrict new cars coming onto the capital’s roads. Were they too little, too late?


The Warriors of Qiugang is a video documentary, later nominated for an Academy Award, which follows a group of Anhui villagers opposed to a local chemical factory they blame for crop failures, fish die-offs and an unusual number of cancer deaths. Earlier this year I spoke to its Chinese-American director Ruby Yang, maker of 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary The Blood of Yingzhou District.


Severe pollution in the global electronics giant’s Chinese supply chain poisons the environment and threatens public health, said a coalition of green campaigners in August. Here, Meng Si reported the story. Also see Liu Jiangqiang’s interview with Ma Jun, “Apple has made no progress at all”, and a more recent update on the campaign: “Face to Face with Apple”.


China’s 12th Five-Year Plan came into effect earlier this year. Climate change and environmental concerns are central to the plan, particularly in the form of support for new, low-carbon industries. Here, Shin Wei Ng asked how Europe can respond constructively.


Water is a priceless asset, yet we deplete it recklessly. Our friends at The Browser brought a number of new readers to chinadialogue by highlighting this excellent, in-depth analysis – the first of four articles by James G Workman and Montgomery F Simus.


No surprises here. This influential article about Beijing’s smog and the controversy around official “misinformation” on air quality was chinadialogue’s most read. And the debate continues: keep checking back in the New Year for more news and analysis about Beijing’s pollution troubles. And in the meantime, I hope you have a happy, pollution-free holiday!