Chinese media criticized for lauding smog ‘benefits’

Reuters, BEIJING

Wed, Dec 11, 2013 - Page 1

Commentaries by two of China’s most influential news outlets suggesting that an ongoing air pollution crisis was not without a silver lining drew a withering reaction yesterday from Internet users and other media.

In online commentaries on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV and the widely read tabloid the Global Times both tried to put a positive spin on China’s smog problem.

The Global Times said smog could be useful in military situations, as it could hinder the use of guided missiles, while CCTV listed five “unforeseen rewards” for smog, including helping Chinese people’s sense of humor.

While both pieces have since been deleted from their Web sites, Chinese newspapers lost little time in denouncing their point of view, in an unusual case of state media criticizing other state media, showing the scale of anger.

“Is the smog supposed to lift if we laugh about it?” the Beijing Business Today wrote. “Smog affects our breathing. We hope it does not affect our thinking.”

The Dongguan Times, from a heavily industrial city, said CCTV’s comments were so bizarre people did not know “whether to laugh or cry.”

“There’s nothing funny about the health dangers of smog,” it wrote.

Even Xinhua news agency — which had initially picked up CCTV’s commentary — weighed in, writing on one of its official microblogs late on Monday that it was “totally inappropriate” to make fun of air pollution.”

Users of the Sina Weibo (新浪微博) microblogging site also vented their outrage over the CCTV and Global Times’ comments.