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“Under the Dome” by Chai Jing

“Under the Dome” originally was a novel by Stephen King about a community in Maine enclosed by an alien force field and the how the people reacted under the stress. CBS adopted it later for a TV drama series. Chai Jing was a reporter for CCTV. She resigned after she got married and became pregnant. Recently she made a documentary about smog and pollution, using her own money, and it went viral and caused quite a stir in China.
In the documentary Chai Jing, using the format like TED talk, on a stage with a projection screen showing pictures, statistics, and interviews with experts showed how pollution affects hundreds of millions of Chinese people. The blanket of smog makes people like living under a dome of cancer causing pollutants. As a former reporter she knows how to communicate effectively in simple language to common people, using personal anecdotes about her new born baby, some basic science, and experts combined to pull the heart strings of viewers. The response has been tremendous with some comparing her to Rachel Carson and “Silent Spring”. The minister of environmental protection was forced to comment on the documentary and praised it. The overwhelming response on the web is positive with some inevitable sniping about her being a former smoker causing her baby’s benign tumor rather than smog and possible effect on jobs and economy. One funny result was the stock prices of all the companies involve in pollution controls in China jumped the day after the showing of the documentary.
China has agreed with US in capping the CO2 emissions and are investing heavily in green technologies. Local officials now can be fired for failing pollution standards. The documentary is in Chinese, I do hope it will be translated to English or with English subtitles. It can be viewed at Todou or Yukou.

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  1. March 3rd, 2015 at 08:54 | #1

    Any documentary tackling pollution is a commendable effort. However, I have reservation on whether she used “her own money” to make this documentary. Also, her suggestion of ending pollution in China is rather comical, in her view, privatisation of China’s national oil giants will solve the problem.

    I suggest people who watch her video do so with a pinch of salt.


  2. N.M.Cheung
    March 3rd, 2015 at 10:18 | #2

    I admit her family/husband is rather rich, and her book royalty is substantial. I think she can afford the approximately $160,000 cost. Of course from the interviews by government officials and their cooperation she did have implicit approval from government. As for privatization I don’t think she advocate it explicitly. She attacked the monopoly position of state oil and gas industry and their control of regulations and poor diesel quality. With the transparency and prosecution of the corruptions in state petroleum industry I think she does have a point. When I was in China the polluting effect of trucks was widely known and an open secret. Competition and government regulation and enforcement in California is a major reason of reducing smog in LA. With the recent drop in oil prices the margin of petroleum companies are way up. It’s a golden opportunity to improve quality of diesel and gasoline while maintaining profit margin, by no means she needs privatization. The anti-corruption campaign last year has been keyed to the oil industry and this year will be extended to other state owned enterprises. I think Xi realize they are interlinked on power and corruption, and try to remedy them.

  3. March 3rd, 2015 at 20:08 | #3

    I think you have been too lenient on public figure. You also don’t scrutinize the information between the line. For example, why did you specifically mentioned the documentary is produced with her own money? How often do you see directors or producers emphasized that the films they produced are by their own money? By highlighting that she did, you unconsciously helped her pushed her hidden agenda.

    Did you know that she is an avid chain smokers before, do you know that she drives around in a high capacity luxury automobile? Also did you know that she fly to the US just to have a baby, can you imagine everybody flying to have a baby? As such her ecological footprint is way bigger than the average person. Much like Al Gore trying to make the world green by living in a giant house and jet setting around pushing carbon tax.

    Oil and gas in China are monopolized by two huge state owned enterprises. Ever since the privatization drive there have been “calls” for this industry to be open to private enterprises? The pretext given by the advocators have always been for less corruption, transparency and cleaner industry. However, the real motive is almost always NEVER mentioned, the profit. If oil and gas is privatized the profit would goes to those who has capital.

    Anyway, I want to add that while the pollution is bad in Beijing, this city actually has very high life expectancy so much so that it outranked NY, LA, Berlin etc. The greater Beijing area now has close to 20 million people, I always feel that the population growth is beyond the holding capacity. However, the statistic showed that people actually live longer there than say Tibet or Guizhou (the cleanest and most untouched province in China!) So I am actually wrong in telling people not to move there.


    Contrary to popular belief, development actually bring higher standard of living and thus life expectancy. That’s why I am so critical on this documentary, none of the steps it suggests will actually helped with the situation. As I have point out in my first post, the Chinese govn’t is already aware of the situation and is taking drastic steps to combat pollution. Sad to say this is another case of amateur with hidden agenda trying to direct the experts hard at work.

  4. N.M.Cheung
    March 3rd, 2015 at 21:47 | #4

    Maybe I am naïve in believe in people and take them at face value, but we have to have a certain trust and look at evidences pro or con, otherwise it would be a sad world. I think Chai Jing anticipated personal attacks on her, questioning on where the money for the documentary came from. That’s why she told us ahead of the time where the money came from. I myself never was into gossip so I never heard her name before I saw the documentary. She may be a former smoker, I don’t know, but after I watched the documentary I believe she is not a smoker now. Bill Gates may be a monopolist, but I do not question his sincerity in trying to eliminate polio or malaria. Al Gore may have benefited from his family business in tobacco and have a large carbon footprint, yet I applaud his “Inconvenient Truth”. We live in a real world and are all hypocrites to some extent, and not live up to our ideals, but that doesn’t mean I have to join the Republicans and oil interests in vilifying him. Ms. Chai did give birth in U.S., she may felt her baby being diagnosed with a benign tumor needed the operation done here, and can afford to. I do not question her motive as a woman and a mother. The question for me is whether the documentary is accurate in portraying smog in China as a threat to the well beings of people in China? Whether we as ordinary people can do something about it? The World Health Organization estimated the live expectancy of northern China is reduced by 5 years compare with south China due to pollution. I wish China can ban smoking and reduce lung cancer rates. In the final analysis as the documentary said it’s a question of money and profit. I consider myself a Marxist. I do not favor privatization of most state owned enterprises, and certainly not oil and gas. Do you know most of the coal mine accidents are from private and illegal small mines? Most of the steel produced in Henan province south of Beijing are from private steel firms? In U.S. the climate change deniers has been using the loss of jobs as a weapon against any change. I think Chinese government very much aware of these problem of smog and doing their best in solving the problem. That’s why I expect the new normal will embrace green rather than oppose it.

  5. N.M.Cheung
    March 4th, 2015 at 05:24 | #5

    Here is a quote from guancha.cn,
    据凤凰网报道,针对网友“抽烟”“开大排量车”的质疑,柴静在沉默两天之后,通过微博号@柴静看见 澄清:“小编很负责任地说:1.柴静不抽烟,要不就是戒烟三十多年了。2.请看视频41分19秒起,她说啦,家里基本不开车,先生上班骑自行车还经常被占道。抱歉,应该完整引用演讲内容‘我们家有辆车,除了老人孩子,机场医院,基本不开’。”
    1. She doesn’t smoke, or she hasn’t been a smoker for 30 years.
    2. Family has a car, but basically doesn’t use it except to airport, hospital, or for elderly and children.
    3. Husband use a bicycle for commute, in heavy car traffic.

  6. March 5th, 2015 at 02:26 | #6

    Like I have said earlier “Any documentary tackling pollution is a commendable effort.” However, we should also look at the content of the documentary. Bill Gates is taking steps to eliminate Malaria, he is not making a video about it. Here’s the big difference.

    Why are you excusing her for jet setting to give birth? How many so-called unbiased documentaries are subconsciously pushing an agenda? My biggest misgiving with her promotional video is her suggestion (or rather the behind the scene interest groups). The ending credit of her video gives special thanks to Ford Foundation etc.

    Because of her video two companies with environmental interest stocks soared 29.38%, 66.67%.

    Also, I have serious misgiving about her twisting the data. Please read:

    On top of that what does the following statement tells you?
    “1. She doesn’t smoke, or she hasn’t been a smoker for 30 years.”
    For example, to defend myself this is the statement I would make. “I have never smoke anything in my life”.

    2. Family has a car, but basically doesn’t use it except to airport, hospital, or for elderly and children.
    3. Husband use a bicycle for commute, in heavy car traffic.

    So it is ok to drive kid or folks everyday around in high fuel consumption vehicle? Don’t you see her responses are all typical statements made by would be politicians. Well, I have a fuel guzzlers but I only used it for airport, hospital, and only for kid and old folks, so I am environmentally green. She basically absolved herself and family from pollution in China. In my view, this is very wrong. I am responsible for polluting my share of mother earth, I am not above everybody else. Pushing the blames on others is where I have problem with.

  7. March 5th, 2015 at 02:34 | #7

    In summary personal responsibility is of utmost importance especially on issues as important as the environment. If someone styled himself as a model ecological friendliness. Please published your ecological footprint, how many airplane trips you take, how much electricity and petrol you’d used. If you need to hide it or to make excuses on why you need to use so much more than the average person, then you are the problem! People’s whose lifestyle like Al Gore is the problem.

    This whole episode remind me on failure of climate conference on cutting pollution.


  8. November 22nd, 2017 at 06:09 | #8

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