Here is another translation, this time about a documentary currently going viral in China, about air pollution (for the sake of speed I went a bit ‘casual’).
Chai Jing’s Public Service Announcement
‘A Thorough Investigation into Air Pollution With Chai Jing: Under the Dome’ Internet response splits
On the last day in February, and the last working day before a massive meeting of representatives from China’s National People’s Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Chai Jing has once again appeared in front of the nation’s viewers, this time she is carrying a metaphorical dome.
Today, Chai Jing has brought the nation her own version of a Public Service Announcement, a year after retiring from her prominent position at China Central Television. Her documentary: ‘A Thorough Investigation into Air Pollution With Chai Jing: Under the Dome’ immediately struck ‘viewcount’ gold, bringing in huge numbers for China’s YouTube-like website ‘Youku’.
The documentary runs just over 100 minutes long and was organised in partnership with Youku and Renmin Internet. In its first day, it received 5.99 million views and garnered over 60,000 ‘likes.’
Chai Jing and air pollution have already been common water-cooler topics around the nation in the past, and it was a safe bet that sparks would start flying after the release of the documentary, with some help from the incendiary and not-too-subtle reference ‘Under the Dome’. More helpful still is the timing: 3 days afterwards our nation’s NPC and CPPCC will be debating environmental protection policy in China. The national public, or perhaps ‘dome dwellers’ is more appropriate, are especially interested in the results of their discussions.
In the debates happening over at Renmin Internet the general tenor of the discussion has been ‘Chai Jing is mother, not a reporter, what’s she doing talking about air pollution? Where did that come from, making this documentary? And what should we be doing about it anyhow?'
Apparently, the documentary cost more than 1 million dollars to make and was paid for entirely at Chai Jing's own expense. As one Internet commentator, nehcuh, put it ‘This is almost unheard of: a reporter, Chai Jing, becoming a TED-talk style lecturer, disseminating what must be somewhat unfamiliar scientific facts and figures to an assembled audience of hundreds, relying on social media to pass the message around the nation. In Chinese culture, the fact that she’s a concerned mother probably helps her cause. The people who worked on the documentary with her would have been pushing for her to make it more objective than her previous ‘sensationalist’ style of news’.
Our figures on the matter are less than perfect, but apparently all over the world about 12 million have died from air pollution-related problems. Beijing experienced 175 days of very high air pollution in 2014.
Chai Jing goes on to explain ‘all that she has seen and heard’ about the matter in the last year: that a white ‘sample capsule’ she prepared became black after just one day of typical air pollution; that 15 cancer producing agents were detected inside the capsule on its autopsy; the illegal goings-on that one can discover by flying an unmanned probe around heavily polluted areas of China, including the effects of so-called ’naked coal’ on the environment; that in Beijing air pollution actually reaches a peak in the morning and does not in fact go down at night, and why; what happens if you visit Beijing’s Yanqing in the dead of night and what large-scale illegal undertakings you might find there in relation to diesel-powered vehicles; looking at what happened to people who were interviewed in a documentary on pollution in Shanxi province 10 years ago; looking at the commercialisation and urbanisation behind the power industry; and looking at what experts in the energy industry in China can tell us about possibly reforming to the system.
Of course, Chai Jing is no stronger to controversy and air pollution is just about one of the most sensitive, controversial topics in China. It would be strange not to see an outpouring of strongly held opinions on the Internet in response. And if not, then that would possibly be even more concerning.
In the documentary, Chai Jing talks about how her baby girl was born with a tumour. Chai Jing candidly describes those days and how she suddenly became extremely, consciously aware of the air pollution surrounding her day and night.
Nanfang Weekend Environmental Reporter Wang Tao penned an article today titled ‘An Eyewitness Account of the Personal Enmity Between Chai Jing and Air Pollution’, describing Chai Jing’s deeply felt sense of enmity towards the prime culprit for her daughter's suffering.
His essay has revealed a few more details: Chai Jing’s daughter was conceived during the so-called ‘fog invasion’ that swept over many Chinese cities in January 2013. Chai Jing suspects that this was linked to her daughter’s subsequent difficulties. Of course, as a reporter, Chai Jing knows one needs more than just a deeply held conviction to produce a news story.
It is this aspect that has drawn Chai Jing herself into some controversy. First of all, as some Internet commentators have pointed out, Chai Jing was 37 years old when she had her daughter, which could have introduced complications. And, also, isn't Chai Jing a regular smoker? Could it be, her detractors argue, that her smoking and age contributed?
In fact, the accusation Chai Jing ‘smokes regularly’ has never been properly confirmed. Some media personalities have responded that in this ‘crazy’ line of work, smoking is extremely common.
So, after looking at the connection between her daughters tumour and the heavy air pollution in China, one must ask the question, what is Chai Jing’s ‘Under the Dome’ really trying to accomplish? The overwhelming answer on Youku is that it’s trying to raise awareness of the importance of the environment and propose a few ways it could be improved.
In any case, as noted lawyer Wu Fatian posed on his blog: 'Chai Jing’s documentary on air pollution has been released to resounding acclaim. There’s no shortage of praise for her ‘righteous’ work of consciousness raising and her talk was very moving. But a lot of people have also raised a few other points. Is the documentary saying that we should professionalise and improve some of our industries? But isn’t that just pie-in-the-sky rabble-rousing? It inflames public opinion but there are still no actual, workable solutions. Two points of view: what do you think?'
A massive industrial society on the one hand and the protection of the environment on the other. It’s a natural debate in a country and an era like ours.
Chai Jing’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. In just 3 days all of China will be looking at Beijing and at the massive gathering of delegates from the People’s Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. As the mainstream media looks on to their discussions, one topic that certainly cannot be far from their radar screens and newspapers will be the issue of the environment: the deadly lurking menace of air pollution. Chai Jing’s documentary is without a doubt going to add more fuel to the fire. With the Chinese Internet now very interested in talking about this topic at the moment, this is sure to do something to bring the Beijing politicians and the people together.
Another point worth noting, as Huachuang Zhengquan wrote about yesterday in their market-focused publication ‘Environment as a Focus of the CPC and CPPCC: Industry Insiders and the ‘35th Plan’ Locks the Issue Into Place’, the decisions that are going to be made about the environment by the assembled politicians are very commercial in nature, and environmental projects and efforts are going to get ‘top dollar’ honours.
When talking about the business of government funding, the first area that springs to mind is undoubtedly the military, but in fact the environment and the military share a lot in common here. The environment is a classic type of government-funded industry, and we have found that shares in environmentally connected companies do have a tendency to jump in response to the government’s words.
Every 5-year plan includes a solemn commitment to the environment by the government, with accompanying targets, proposals and encouragements to local officialdom at all levels. The plans by the central government on this point are going to directly influence local government environmental policy and determine the size of the government cake that goes to all the key players. At the end of the line, the orders and projects going to industry will determine their respective level of future success.
In 2012, the task of protecting the environment was named by China’s State Council as the ‘greatest’ out of their current seven ‘great tasks’. And the marketplace’s unprecedented interest in the environment is also a result of the ending of the current and beginning of the next pro-environment five year plan.
Chai Jing also looked at corruption, and raised the examples of Liu Tienan and Chen Hua, former SDRC Vice Chairman. According to Hengcuo from Zhihu, ‘What we can clearly see is an opinion favouring a (theoretically possible) market solution, that lets the market deal with the problem, that promotes creative solutions and cleaner forms of energy. But what current political players tend to favour is more effective forms of legal redress for breaches of environmental law to protect those companies who want to do the right thing.
At the same time, there are those who would disagree, saying that 7% economic growth year on year is not really consistent with low air pollution - ‘you may as well say you want to have your cake and eat it too.’
Of course, in theory there may be many an effective solution to our environmental woes, but netizens are still skeptical, echoing the debate over GMO foods.
In any case, Chai Jing’s dome is on fire. What do you think?