A groundbreaking documentary about China’s debilitating smog problem has struck a chord in the country, having already been viewed 100 million times since its release last week. The video, a TED-style talk done by former CCTV presenter Chai Jing called “China’s Haze: Under the Dome”, looks at the causes of China’s pollution problem and insinuates the government could be doing more to improve China’s air quality.
The self-funded piece has mostly drawn praise from people in China, with even the newly anointed environment minister giving the 104-minute piece the thumbs up.The self-funded piece has mostly drawn praise from people in China, with even the newly anointed environment minister giving the 104-minute piece the thumbs up. But several critics have emerged, questioning Chai’s decision to use her daughter’s story as a backdrop to the documentary. Chai’s daughter has a tumor in her lung, leading many to question if Chai brought a fair-and-balanced perspective to the issue.
Professor Wu Jing from Peking University accused Chai’s documentary of trying to appease public sentiment for commercial gains. Others doubted if the solution proposed by Chai, which is to replace coal with gas and new energy, is actually possible given China’s rich coal resources and the constraints of technology.
One teacher at the Central Academy of Drama even went so far as to criticise China’s entire middle class, arguably the most vocal group about the smog problem, for being hypocritical. On one hand, he said the middle class in Beijing is always concerned about the problem and blames neighbouring Hebei province for smog, but on the other hand, they indulge in high-energy consuming lifestyles, oblivious of their own impact on smog.
Despite the criticism, however, most Internet users sided with Chai and commended her for putting the issue on the table and giving the public a chance to understand the problem, and hopefully inspire some actions to improve it.
One Weibo user (光远看经济) defended Chai, writing, “As expected, many experts shook their heads and voiced their criticism, saying Chai Jing’s investigation is not professional and has many technical errors. If you are professional, why don’t you do something about it? If you are professional, why up until now, do you still not know what causes smog? If you are professional, what did you do to solve the smog problem? I think the only thing that’s professional about the so-called experts is they always jump out and accuse others for being unprofessional when they have done something professional indeed.”
It appears thousands of Chinese people agree. This post has been liked 103,000 times and shared 23,745 times by last night (March 1).
You can watch Chai Jing’s documentary here.