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Cracks in Beijing’s Dome

Mar 12 , 2015

Citizens of modern democracies often take for granted the muckraking journalism that goes along with a free press. Yet for most Chinese such reporting is new and exhilarating, which might explain the phenomenal success of a video calling attention to the scandal of China’s polluted skies.

Viewed by hundreds of millions of Chinese in the week before it was censored, “Under the Dome” was supposedly produced by private citizen Chai Jing with her own money. That’s unlikely. Ms. Chai, a former state-television journalist, released her polished jeremiad against smog on the website of official media outlets such as the People’s Daily at the most sensitive time of the political calendar, days before the annual session of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament.

The following day, China’s newly appointed Minister of Environmental Protection, Chen Jining, endorsed Ms. Chai’s work. The video contains interviews with officials from the Environment Ministry, National Development and Reform Commission and the Party’s Finance Affairs Office. Scholars at Peking University contributed background material.

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