The Weekend Wonk: China’s “Inconvenient Truth” Translated

March 8, 2015

China continues to awaken.  This is the video you’ve heard about – with subtitles.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports  that access to the video has now been blocked by Chinese Authorities.

“Under the Dome,” a searing documentary about China’s catastrophic air pollution, had hundreds of millions of views on Chinese websites within days of its release one week ago.

The country’s new environment minister compared it to “Silent Spring,” the landmark 1962 book that energized the environmental movement in the United States. Domestic and foreign journalists clamored to interview the filmmaker, a famous former television reporter, though she remained silent.

Then on Friday afternoon, the momentum over the video came to an abrupt halt, as major Chinese video websites deleted it under orders from the Communist Party’s central propaganda department.

The startling phenomenon of the video, the national debate it set off and the official attempts to quash it reflect the deep political sensitivities in the struggle within the Chinese bureaucracy to reverse China’s environmental degradation, among the worst in the world. The drama over the video has ignited speculation over which political groups were its supporters and which sought to kill it, and whether party leaders will tolerate the civic conversation and grass-roots activism that in other countries have been necessary to curbing rampant pollution.

“It’s been spirited away by gremlins,” said Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism and media studies in Beijing.

ReNew Economy:

For the past few days, the online community in China has been abuzz over a 104-minute documentary, Under the Dome, that has galvanised the population and even major investment banks who believe it may just tip the balance against fossil fuels in the world’s biggest polluter.

Under the Dome, a documentary on air pollution produced by Chai Jing, a former CCTV investigative journalist who had already reached celebrity status in China, has been viewed more than 200 million times in its first four days of release.

It has been widely applauded in the online community, and, most pointedly, drew praise from Chen Jining, the newly appointed Environmental Protection Minister, who thanked the film maker for bringing public attention to China’s chronic pollution issues.

Already, its potential impact is being compared – by investment banking giant Merrill Lynch – to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and Rachel Carson’s A Silent Spring for its potential impact on the coal industry. Because of its endorsement by the Chinese government, Under the Dome could be even more powerful.

Indeed, Merrill Lynch said in a note to clients that the film’s impact could spell bad news for coal miners, coal generators, and oil refiners, and it could also cause ripple effects through the Chinese debt markets, even to the point where the Chinese currency might have to be devalued.


China will boost efforts this year to rid itself of a strong addiction to coal in a bid to reduce damaging pollution as well as cut the energy intensity of its economy, which is expected to grow at its lowest rate in 25 years.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in its annual report on Thursday that it would implement policies aimed at reducing coal consumption and controlling the number of energy-intensive projects in polluted regions.

China is trying to strike a balance between improving its environment and restructuring away from an economy dominated by energy intensive industries like steel making and construction towards one focused more on consumption and the service sector.

Premier Li made fighting pollution a priority. “We will strive for zero-growth in the consumption of coal in key areas of the country,” he said to parliament.

“Environmental pollution is a blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts,” Li said.




5 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: China’s “Inconvenient Truth” Translated”

  1. It’s not censored any longer.

    Wow, was planning on an early night as I’ve got a tough three days ahead, but was riveted by the video. Having dinner at 10:30 PM (EET) as a result!

  2. redskylite Says:

    Excellent film and no surprise that the communist propaganda regime have blocked local viewing, it must have taken courage and wit to make the film.

    However more of a surprise in Florida where talk of climate change is suppressed at local government level.

    Having just read about Fox news concern about google controlling our minds with a scientific algorithm, should they not be concerned about this too.

  3. jajoslinjajoslin Says:

    Quite a remarkable video. It will certainly be viewed worldwide. May it inspire thoughtful action here as well as in China. (No doubt , the ‘communists’ or whoever they are in Florida will rethink their crude tactics by tomorrow morning !!)-Joslin ( Detroit , USA )

  4. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    Really superb documentary that everybody should watch.

    I looked up some of the chemicals identified in the smog – one of the main constituents is benzo[a]pyrene, which is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon found in coal tar with the formula C₂₀H₁₂. Its metabolites are mutagenic and highly carcinogenic, and it is listed as a Group 1 carcinogen by the IARC.

    No wonder they don’t want people to know what they are breathing in, and China’s air is all our air too.

    It has been imperative for years to get off dirty fuels, but it has to happen asap.

    If directors were forced to hold meetings at the top of their chimney stacks, pollution would stop being a problem pretty quickly!

    • dumboldguy Says:

      But what about what the friggin’ TREES? Don’t you remember what Saint Ronald the Reagan had to say about how they were going to kill us all by putting so much terpene and isoprene into the atmosphere? And they’re likely to produce even more as AGW causes warmer temps to move north into the boreal forests.

      As VOC’s go, terpene and isoprene are not in the same class as benzopyrenes in being carcinogens, but the trees DO make a lot of them. And forest fires also make a lot of benzo(a)pyrene, so we can blame everyone who is contributing to the AGW that is leading to more wildfires, not just the Chinese.

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