A lot of Chinese didn’t know there was a smog problem in China until 2012, when the Government finally relented and started publishing pollution data. Since then, sales of products such as air purifiers, medicines that improve respiratory and lung issues, and face masks have soared as much as 130% in a single month.
Acknowledgement of a problem is the first step to fixing it. Beijing has passed countless laws to improve the country’s dire pollution problem and has directed trillions of yuan in funding. The omnipresent state media now reports on China’s pollution, and public organisations such as The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Chinese Agriculture University make public statements like “Beijing is almost unfit for human beings” and “China’s toxic air resembles a nuclear winter”.
While the Government has a leading role to play in reducing pollution, if even a sliver of the 1.35 billion Chinese were mobilised to fix China’s pollution problem, mountains could be moved.
Countless research reports and surveys indicate Chinese consumers support businesses who are sustainable and pay more for environmental products. In reality, most consumers are just paying lip service to sustainable behaviour, with worrying statistics like SUVs being the fastest growing category of car sales. In short, most Chinese believe that it is the Government’s responsibility to fix the problem.
There have been baby steps encourage consumers to play their part, such as Jack Ma’s mobile app to crowd source water pollution data. But until Chai Jing’s stunning Under The Dome documentary, there was very little that could reach Chinese consumers en masse, in a way that resonates emotionally, with facts to back it up, to arouse some action. Although it wasn’t central to the documentary, there were a number of takeaways for how Chinese consumers can play their part in improving China’s pollution.
Less than a week after launching, the documentary had been viewed 166 million times on Tencent alone, and the online buzz was melting servers across the Mainland. That was too much for Beijing. The Government mandated state media to stop reporting on it, removed it from video platforms such as Youku, Tudou and Tencent, and wiped it from trending topics on Weibo, along with many of the conversations. Fortunately the cat was out of the bag, and we’re hoping that it will be the tipping point to inspire individual accountability from Chinese consumers in playing their part in fixing China’s pollution. Below you can see what all the buzz is about – the fully-English subtitled Under The Dome documentary is below. Chai Jing & co – we love your work!
Here’s to the return of Apec Blue in China.