You can’t make this stuff up. On Sunday, with swaths of eastern China shrouded in a polluted haze, Chinese state media decided to release a list of five “surprising benefits” of smog. Here, courtesy of Wang Lei, an editor for China Central Television’s website, are five good things about bad air:
1. It unifies the Chinese people.
2. It makes China more equal.
3. It raises citizen awareness of the cost of China’s economic development.
4. It makes people funnier.
5. It makes people more knowledgeable (of things like meteorology and the English word haze).
I’d like to think the piece as well-intentioned satire. Perhaps it was. But the article, which has since been pulled, was followed by another piece of pollution promotion. On Monday, the Global Times published a piece that said air pollution might help the Chinese military by obscuring sight lines, reducing the effectiveness of surveillance and weapons systems.
For the most part, China’s netizens were not impressed. “It is a public tragedy that half of China is engulfed in smog, wrote one. “We should not entertain ourselves by this tragedy.” Wrote another: “The smog weather makes CCTV much stupider. They always treat us as fools.”
But there was a rare point of agreement on item No. 4. China’s official attitude to smog is, indeed, a joke.
— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing
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