China’s news media is tightly controlled by the government with some delicate topics such as Taiwan and Tibet completely prohibited, and most other negative news heavily restricted or forced to show a positive side.
So it is of some surprise, and can be taken as a sign of just how serious the situation is, that recently the Chinese media across the board has been lambasting the state of air pollution in Beijing and other cities in northern China.
Yesterday most state news publications published aggressive reports on the dangerous levels of smog and air pollution after public opinion and anger over the nation’s air quality forced the government’s propaganda team to allow unbridled coverage and admit the seriousness of the problem to its people.
Jeremy Goldkorn, a business consultant in Beijing who tracks the Chinese news media, told the NY Times that he has “never seen such broad Chinese media coverage of air pollution. From People’s Daily to China Central Television, the story is being covered thoroughly, without trying to put a positive spin on it.”
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In 2008 the air in Beijing was cleaned up ahead of the Olympics, but since then it has rapidly degraded to the worst levels ever. Some people claim that the current toxicity levels could be a result of a weather phenomenon known as inversion which prevents air from rising up into the atmosphere; instead the smog is trapped close to the surface.
Hu Jintao, the president and former party chief, has said in an official political report that the problems have been exacerbated by China’s rapid development and that it must now do something to address the threat to the environment and health of the population as soon as possible.
Bill Bishop, a columnist for the DealBook blog of the NY Times, wrote: “Clearly it is impossible to pretend that the air is not polluted or that the health risks are not significant, so are the propaganda authorities just recognizing reality in allowing coverage? Or is there something more going on here, as perhaps the new government wants to both demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability as well as use this crisis to further the difficult reforms toward a more sustainable development model?”
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com