This week the Chinese internet has been up in outrage over a speech made by University of Maryland graduate Shuping Yang in which she extolled the “fresh air” of the United States, claiming that: “I grew up in a city in China where I had to wear a face mask every time I went outside; otherwise I might get sick.”
After a little investigating, netizens discovered that Yang was in fact from Kunming, one of China’s least polluted cities.
To put Yang’s claim of sickening smog to the test, China’s official Xinhua news agency dispatched a pair of intrepid reporters to the Yunnan capital yesterday where they conducted a painfully awkward 54-minute-long livestream on Twitter and Facebook, asking residents what they thought about Kunming’s air quality.
Following a brief introduction, the reporters began their investigation (on an unfortunately overcast day) with a “random” encounter with a Spanish expat living in Kunming who told them: “There’s no need for wearing masks here in Kunming,” adding that the air in the city is much better than elsewhere in China.
Next, the journalists paid a visit to a nearby kindergarten where they saw children without face masks playing happily together outside, rather than dying instantly from the toxic air. One teacher told them that while the air quality in Kunming hasn’t been as good in recent years compared with before, she still never wears a mask outside. “Because the weather in Kunming is very good and you don’t need to wear masks,” the reporter reiterates.
The pair then spent the better part of an hour gallivanting around town, chatting with local who admit that sometimes they wear masks, but for fear of dangerous UV rays not smog particles. Oh and were you were aware that Kunming is called the “Spring City?” After watching this video you will be.
In the end, the Xinhua team concludes that “Most of the interviewees we talked to considered the air quality rather good,” before closing the livestream with a “beautiful scene” of a traffic roundabout.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) May 24, 2017
The city of Kunming itself has also fought back against Yang’s claims as well, playfully posting on its official Weibo account: “We won’t take the blame for this. As of May 8th, this year Kunming has enjoyed 100% good quality air days.
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