| SHANGHAI, March 2
SHANGHAI, March 2 Could "Under the Dome",
Chinese journalist Chai Jing's new documentary about pollution,
become China's "Silent Spring", the 1962 book that spurred the
development of the U.S. environmental movement?
Since it was released online on Saturday, the film has been
viewed more than 150 million times and has sparked a national
debate on environmental problems.
"Under the Dome", which explains air pollution in personal,
straight-forward terms, was well-timed: this week China's
National People's Congress, the country's parliament, holds its
China's environment minister, Chen Jining, drew parallels
between Chai's film and "Silent Spring", the ground-breaking
book by American journalist Rachel Carson.
"This is a remarkable milestone," Li Yan, Beijing-based
climate and energy campaign manager for environmental group
Greenpeace, said of the film.
Chai was a well-known journalist on state-run television
before making the documentary.
Environmental awareness has been increasing in China,
especially since air pollution levels in Beijing hit record
highs in January 2013, a phenomenon dubbed the "airpocalypse".
The documentary has touched a national nerve.
"The difference is in the delivery," said Peggy Liu,
chairwoman of Shanghai-based environmental advocacy group
JUCCCE, noting Chai's storytelling abilities.
"It's not that people aren't expressing these messages
The film begins with Chai Jing's experience as a pregnant
woman and then a mother of a child born with a benign tumor,
which had to be removed. It looks at China's pollution, how it
affects health, and what can be done about it.
Greenpeace's Li Yan said Chai's documentary and the public
debate it has generated could help the environmental ministry
garner the resources it needs to implement a new, tougher
environmental protection law that raises penalties for
But obstacles to clearing China's skies are daunting.
The country is heavily reliant on coal and car ownership is
State-owned enterprises, which dominate heavy industry, can
at times be more powerful than their regulators.
The film might prove a boon to other industries.
Sales of air purifiers at the Blue Air store on
3c.tmall.com, an online home electronics shop owned by Internet
giant Alibaba, more than doubled the day after the documentary
Wang Zhen, a public relations executive in Shanghai, said
the documentary finally convinced her to buy an air purifier.
"I really need to protect my family, that's the main bottom
line," she said.
(Reporting by Alexandra Harney; additional reporting by
Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel)