China pollution

State media ridiculed over smog 'benefits'

Internet users and official newspapers lambast CCTV and Global Times for arguing there are advantages to mainland's severe air pollution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 2:59pm

Commentaries by two of the mainland's most influential news outlets suggesting an ongoing air pollution crisis was not without a silver lining drew a withering reaction yesterday from internet users and other media.

In online commentaries on Monday, CCTV and the tabloid Global Times, published by the Communist Party's official People's Daily, both tried to put a positive spin on the mainland's smog problem.

The Global Times said smog could be useful in military situations, as it could hinder the use of guided missiles, while CCTV listed five "unforeseen rewards" for smog, including helping Chinese people's sense of humour.

While both pieces have since been deleted from their websites, newspapers lost little time in denouncing their point of view, in an unusual case of state media criticising other state media, showing the scale of the anger.

"Is the smog supposed to lift if we laugh about it?" wrote the Beijing Business Today, published by the city government's official Beijing Daily. "Smog affects our breathing. We hope it does not affect our thinking."

The Dongguan Times said CCTV's comments were so bizarre people did not know "whether to laugh or cry".

"There's nothing funny about the health dangers of smog," it wrote.

Even Xinhua - which initially picked up CCTV's commentary - weighed in, writing on one of its official microblogs late on Monday it was "totally inappropriate" to make fun of air pollution.

Air quality in cities is of increasing concern to China's stability-obsessed leaders, anxious to douse potential unrest as a more affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has poisoned much of the country's air, water and soil.

Large parts of the eastern mainland, including the country's prosperous and cosmopolitan commercial capital Shanghai, have been covered in a thick pall of smog over the past week or so, though Beijing's normally filthy air has been relatively clear.

Users of Sina Weibo also vented their outrage over the comments by CCTV and the Global Times.

"The smog crisis covering large parts of China has revealed the failure of the government's development strategy of only going after GDP [growth]. CCTV is shameless in trying to cover up for their masters," wrote Wu Bihu , a professor at Peking University.

"The Global Times thinks that pollution will cause missiles to miss their targets … How shameful! So that's what all this smog has really been about. People had thought it was just bad pollution," state television in Shandong province wrote on one of its microblogs.