A new documentary video on pollution in China has become a viral hit, racking up almost 30 million views over the weekend. The Chinese pollution documentary is produced and hosted by former state television reporter Chai Jing. Titled “Under the Dome”, the high-production quality program offers a offers an in-depth examination of the environmental consequences of 30 years of rapid economic development.
More on Chinese pollution documentary
Chai hosts the program in front of a live studio audience while standing in front of a screen with scenes from polluting industries, interviews with and visits to sites in China and elsewhere to provide context on the problem.
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The video criticizes the Chinese government for not making more efforts to stop polluters, and especially the fact that businesses were allowed to use the cheapest and most polluting varieties of coal, oil and gasoline.
In interviews about the documentary, Chai has said she decided to make the 104-minute environmental video because of worries about pollution on the health of her infant daughter. The documentary only cost $160,000 to make, and somewhat surprisingly, the show was praised by new Chinese Environment Minister Chen Jining, who noted it tapped into a “growing public concern over environmental protection and threats to human health.”
Of note, the documentary was available on the video site Youku Saturday morning. By late Monday, it had already received 28.84 million views.
The documentary has also led to much speculation regarding Chai and the degree of official support she enjoyed. Chat sites were full of questions on whether the production was truly independent.
The dangerous pollution in Beijing and other cities has led to both private and public efforts to combat it. Moreover, the slowdown in the Chinese economy has given the government more room to crack down on heavily polluting industries.
Late last year, the Chinese government pledged to produce 20% of the country’s total energy with non-fossil fuels by 2030, more than doubling its current level, and also reaching equilibrium (no more growth) in carbon emissions by the same year.
Chinese government sensitivity to subject
“The environment is a sensitive issue that concerns the interests of all sides,” Yu Guoming, a journalism professor at Beijing’s Renmin University, noted when commenting on the documentary.
“Fighting pollution enjoys broad support from the public and … can also be used as leverage to promote changes to the economic structure in the future,” he pointed out.