China’s choking smog has reached extremely high levels. Schools, highways, and airports are being closed, and people need to stay indoors to avoid breathing the noxious, dark-grey air. Shanghai, among many cities, was issued a red alert in January 2014, the highest possible warning. However, state-run CCTV thought it was a good time to put a positive spin on the situation.
CCTV published a list of smog benefits on its website. How thoughtful of them! Citizens must have really enjoyed a good laugh. Except, they didn’t. No one is in the mood for a laugh when they can’t breathe. And then there is the question: Was it meant as satire, or not?
Below is the list of benefits Chinese people are enjoying from the increased air pollution, according to CCTV. The original list was quickly removed due to overwhelming ridicule.
It unifies people
Yes, complaining about smog is bringing Chinese people closer together.
It is a great equalizer
Even the filthy rich have to breathe the same filthy air. “Of course,” they can travel in their luxury cars and avoid the worst pollution in other ways, “but they are, after all, a minority,” and even they “have a hard time” avoiding it completely.
It raises awareness
“With the whole world playing up the Chinese miracle,” the pollution “reminds us that China’s status as ‘the world’s factory’ is not without a price.” It’s just a wonderful opportunity for people to realize the price of break-neck industrialization.
It makes people laugh
It brings out the best in Chinese people when they are faced with deadly environmental problems like smog. The article lists some popular smog jokes. Our favorite from the sorry lot is: “I never feel more distant from you than when we’re holding hands in the street — I can’t see you.”
It increases knowledge
“Through the arguments and the jokes [about the air pollution], our knowledge of meteorology, geography, physics, chemistry, and history has progressed.” Another thing to be proud of: “Students learning English have added words like haze and smog to their vocabulary.”
The list was quickly deleted
It’s hard to say what the intended effect of the list was — to actually have people see the bright side, or just to make them laugh, but it really backfired, according to TeaLeafNation.com, which reported that “thousands of users on Sina Weibo have derided the effort.”
The story disappeared from the major media outlets that had featured it, such as CCTV’s website and the state-run Xinhua, but it was too late to stop netizens from spreading it and mocking it far and wide on social media.
It turns out that Chinese people prefer to joke among themselves and leave the media to cover what the Communist regime is or isn’t doing to solve the problem.