Record-breaking smog has crippled Shanghai in recent days, disrupting more than 100 flights and leading to a 26 percent surge in admissions at the city’s largest children’s hospital. Low visibility due to the drastic spike in air pollution was even attributed to a fatal seven-car pileup.
Still, China’s state-run media attempted to find a silver lining beneath the choking gray haze.
“Smog may affect people’s health and daily lives … but on the battlefield, it can serve as a defensive advantage in military operations,” wrote Global Times, a notoriously nationalistic news outlet that acts as a mouthpiece for the Communist Party. It claimed that airborne particles would disrupt missile guidance systems, intelligence-gathering satellites, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The article cited the Kosovo War, when soldiers from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia burned car tires in an attempt to thwart NATO airstrikes, as well as Gulf War sandstorms that disrupted thermal imaging equipment on US tanks. It has since been deleted from the Global Times website.
State broadcaster CCTV also looked for a positive spin on the potentially life-threatening smog, posting a blog titled “Five Surprising Benefits From China’s Haze.”
CCTV’s post has also been deleted, but Foreign Policy provided the list:
1. It unifies Chinese people.
2. It makes China more equal.
3. It raises citizen awareness.
4. Chinese people are funnier when they are contending with deadly smog.
5. The haze makes Chinese people more knowledgeable.
Thousands of Chinese internet users took to Weibo to express their outrage over the slanted reports, while alternative state-sponsored media outlets heaped on their own criticisms.
“The smog crisis covering large parts of China has revealed the failure of the government’s development strategy of only going after GDP (growth),” Wu Bihu, a professor at Peking University, told Reuters. “CCTV is shameless in trying to cover up for their masters.”
Chinese equities also slumped, triggered by Yanzhou Coal Mining Co.’s slide. The country’s fourth-largest coal producer hit a three-week low over fears that the Chinese government would intervene over the apparent overuse of the fossil fuel. Bloomberg reported that China Eastern Airlines also plummeted to a two-week low.
On December 6, Shanghai’s air index reached 482 – “severe” on the government’s 6-level warning index. Yesterday’s PM 2.5 air pollution was higher than 360 micrograms per cubic meter, 14 times higher than the World Health Organization’s maximum recommended daily exposure.
“Everyone is calling it the ‘airpocalypse.’ We even ordered special masks from Taobao in order to get around outside,” said Charmika Monet, a Diplomat contributor based in Shanghai. “The regular masks you can buy at a pharmacy don’t protect well against PM 2.5 pollution, but they don’t tell you that, so you have to do your own research.”
She added, “I tried taking my mask off just to taste the air without it – it was like jogging behind a moving bus.”