The first-ever air pollution red alert sounded by Beijing on Dec. 8 received the international attention it deserved. The foul, orange-tinged air suffocating the Chinese capital is the most visible failure of the performance-conscious Chinese government in delivering on its promises to clean up the country's severely degraded environment.
We should all welcome the Beijing municipal government's public, albeit humiliating, acknowledgement of the obvious: Beijing's air is not fit for breathing. Yet, Beijing's first "red alert" raises an even more important question about the credibility of the Chinese government. Is it telling the truth about the true state of China's environmental degradation?