According to Wang, the existence of the machine and the
openness of the Twitter site are “not fair” to the Beijing EPB. He
cited that the Twitter site’s consistent characterization in recent
days of Beijing air quality as “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy” takes
credit away from “all the progress” Beijing EPB has made in recent
years in improving the city’s air quality. Wang added that the fact
that the Embassy’s air quality data is not based on the
Chinese-approved standards for measuring air pollution is not only
confusing but also insulting, citing that the U.S. government would
be similarly incensed if the Chinese Embassy in Washington were to
do the same. Wang concluded by again urging that if data could not
be limited to Americans only, the Embassy should identify a
“compromise.” Ultimately, MFA would “hate to see” the bilateral
environmental cooperation or even the overall relationship
negatively “affected by this issue.”

The existence of the embassy’s machine and the @BeijingAir Twitter feed have been a diplomatic sore point for Chinese officials. In July 2009, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official, Wang Shu’ai, told American diplomats to halt the Twitter feed, saying that the data “is not only confusing but also insulting,” according to a State Department cable obtained by WikiLeaks. Mr. Wang said the embassy’s data could lead to “social consequences.”