Perils of Pollution in China

Skyscrapers rise eerily through the heavy smog in Shenyang, in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, in November 2014.

Air and water pollution have plagued China in recent decades as the East Asian country has powered its way to being the world’s second-largest economy. Growing up in smog-blanketed cities like Beijing, some Chinese children have never seen the stars at night, or a blue sky, or a white cloud. Many city dwellers wear masks when they venture outdoors. Tourists have their photos taken against backdrops of a scenic cityscape to conceal the real, polluted skyline.

In early March an exposé of China’s pollution problems titled Under the Dome went viral on China’s internet. Produced by Chai Jing, a former anchor on Chinese state-run television, the documentary received more than 200 million hits. It was even praised by China’s environmental minister, Chen Jining, who likened it to Silent Spring, the book by Rachel Carson that helped launch the environmental movement in the United States a half century ago.

But the level of attention to the government’s ineffectiveness in combatting pollution apparently became too inconvenient for China’s rulers. As the annual meeting of the Communist Party–controlled National People’s Congress got under way in early March, the censors were ordered to step in and block the film. In seconds, it was gone from the Internet. Hopefully for the Chinese people, its message won’t disappear from the minds of those who saw it.

Image credit: © Imaginechina via AP Images

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