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China orders foreign embassies not to monitor pollution

Local residents fish in the polluted Houhai, a lake near central Beijing on May 10, 2012.

David Brancaccio: Top Chinese officials today ordered foreign embassies to stop reporting air pollution levels in China. The U.S. embassy has a closely watched pollution index it sends out on Twitter. China says watching pollution is its jobs and says the monitoring by foreigners is illegal.

Shaun Rein is with China Market Research Group. Mr. Rein, thanks for this.

Shaun Rein: It's great to be here, David, thank you.

Brancaccio: So you've done business in the region for a long while, what do you make of this? Apparently the Chinese government doesn't like these reports.

Rein: It's a real shame that the government would take this stand. Everybody knows that pollution is a horrible problem in China, in fact, we interviewed 5,000 consumers in 15 cities last year and their biggest concerns in life were food and product safety, and pollution. It's starting to really effect everybody, and so it's not a state secret or anything like that for people to know that pollution is really starting to impact the quality of life for everyday Chinese.

Brancaccio: Have you heard of this Twitter feed that the U.S. embassy was putting out -- monitoring pollution levels?

Rein: I think everybody has heard about it because this is the first time that we were able to hear exactly how bad the micro-particles were in the air. Right now, the Chinese government didn't release how much -- 2.5 micro diameter -- particles were in the air. We were relying on more outdated information on the quality of the air so based on that system, the Chinese government was saying that the air was actually quite good and starting to improve. But that sure as heck isn't how it feels for people like me who live here on a day-to-day basis.

Brancaccio: Of course monitoring is one thing, doing something about the problem is another.

Rein: I think the Chinese government should actually spend more time fixing the pollution issues in China -- you know, getting rid of some of the coal burning and farmers that are burning refuse on a day-to-day basis -- rather than complaining about what everybody already knows and what the U.S. government is doing on Twitter.

Brancaccio: Shaun Rein, China Market Research Group, thank you very much.

Rein: Great, thank you.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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