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By Wu Qiang, published: March 15, 2014 Look beyond Chai Jing’s film.   In a time when opinion leaders, known as the “big verified accounts” or Big Vs,  in China have been razed or driven away, who would have thought that one of them would re-activate the topic of smog with an eye-opening combination of a TED-like presentation and documentary interviews. Everything about Chai Jing’s film Under the Dome, from millions of views within two days, to the heated national debate, from the government’s initial encouragement to its subsequent censorship, indicates that it is a carefully-planned New Media event, and its purpose is to cause a small tsunami in the traditional arena of politics in order to establish a new framework for the politics of […]


By Chang Ping, published: March 4, 2015   “Each and every part (of the petroleum industry) is basically a monopoly.” “Under a monopoly there can be no innovation.” “Outsiders can’t break into it at all.” “It is the one and only child. The toys are all his. He plays with them anyway he wants, and he throws them around.” On camera, one after another, Chinese policy-making officials and environmental administrators indicted the China National Petroleum Corporation, a SOE that has contributed a great deal to air pollution in China according to Chai Jing’s documentary Under the Dome. One quickly realizes that it is also a pretty accurate assessment of the Communist Party regime itself and China’s political landscape. “It’s not that I’m afraid to die; […]


When it comes to China’s environmental progress, it can be hard to find much of a silver lining. The front page of the newspaper in the office today showed Beijing choked with pollution, as over 200 flights had to be canceled. New data also came out that showed the increase in CO2 emissions in 2010 was the largest since the industrial revolution, and China’s lead as worst polluter continues to grow at an astonishing pace. Yet today, I’m feeling slightly optimistic about the future of the air quality as co-workers and friends more frequently discuss the urgency of this issue. The other day I had the chance to help a person prepare a presentation about the energy saving measures taken in one of Nanjing’s largest […]


When talking with Chinese friends and co-workers about the pollution levels in Nanjing (awful compared to developed countries, but decent for Chinese cities), they are quick to point out that foreign companies in China are the ones that should be blamed for the filthy air. While it is absolutely true that foreign companies are adding to China’s environmental woes, I’m not convinced they should shoulder all the blame. Today, I’d like to start by discussing three points related to this statement, and I hope you’ll continue the discussion in the comment section below. Production for the West This factor is undeniable. Western consumers have benefited from the destruction of China’s environment by purchasing cheap goods. If all of our environmental standards were enforced globally (and […]


When I first arrived in China in 2007, the attitude of many of my Chinese friends was that the system was broken, but there was absolutely nothing they could do to fix it. I clearly remember chatting with a professor in Longzhou. He said, “They talk a lot about a ‘harmonious society’ but what the hell does that mean? The price of everything is going up and things are getting worse. I don’t care about ‘harmony’ I care about actually having a good life.” At that time I was surprised to hear people openly complain about their situation, and was bothered by their sense of hopelessness. Now though people are far more willing to vent their frustration, not only with foreigners (who are seen as a safe […]


On Friday morning I was taking a group of foreign guests to visit sites around Nanjing when a heavy smog blanketed the city in a yellow stench. It seemed as if every family in the city of over 7 million had lit a pile of tires ablaze. Within 20 minutes of being outside I started feeling asthma like symptoms, meaning that it actually hurt to breathe. After the experience I was eager to check the official Air Quality Index (updated daily) to see just how severe the pollution had been. Unfortunately, these are not posted in a timely enough manner to be of any use in avoiding this kind of hazard. So you can imagine my surprise in learning that “officially” the air quality on Friday was […]


Yesterday I wrote about the health effects of pollution on the general Chinese population. (from a Photo essay on pollution in China) Today I am going to look at the question: Where does all this pollution come from? Which has an easy answer – Coal burning power plants, coal heated homes, and coal roasted sweet potatoes. The coal roasted sweet potatoes aren’t a joke sadly, they are a common sight throughout China. In Guangxi many restaurants used cement buckets with coal bricks for cooking. In a matter of minutes my entire respiratory system would stage a protest, and I would have to run out with my nose running, coughing like I had just been tear gassed. This embarrassing reaction only happens to foreigners since all […]


Pollution is something that has really become a concern for me here in Nanjing. The main reason for this is that I have had a sore throat and cough for about 3 months, and after x-rays and blood tests I have been declared healthy, even though I feel far from that. I blame pollution for this, since that seems to make more sense than the ideas my co-workers have come up with. One thought it was because I work in a hospital, which isn’t the worst idea, except that I am not even in the same building as patients. Another thought was that I don’t wash my hands enough, which simply isn’t true, thoroughly washing my hands like a surgeon while wearing my doctor’s coat […]


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