Premier Li Keqiang admitted to government’s inability/failure to combat rampant smog and pollution in major cities. This public admittance comes in light of the banned “Under the Dome” viral documentary, which captured the mass sentiment against the “pervasive smog.” Mr. Li acknowledged promises of the past to increase regulations and heavy-handed fines against illegal dumping and emissions. In response to pressure from Chinese citizens and environmental regulatory agencies, the government reported an 0.8 percent reduction in emissions. This is the first fall in China’s emissions after more than 15 years.
However, the Ministry of Environmental Protection still found only eight of 74 monitored cities met clean air standards. Lax regulations have allowed Chinese manufacturers to overproduce at the expense of clean air (also allowed tremendous growth). SOEs, particularly big oil, account for the majority of such pollution. Recent plans to consolidate SOEs could be the government’s opportunity to overhaul environmental regulations.
“Under the Dome” has been heralded the “Silent Spring” of China. The adverse health effects of pollution are tangible and have sparked widespread criticisms/demands of the Party. Such sentiments have precipitated into action. Before, urban laborers may have tolerated pollution in order to maintain wages. But now, as the nation matures and wealth agglomerates, Chinese citizens no longer have to be indifferent to unhealthy conditions. Dissidence over the environment reflects this growing concern. Party leaders can no longer offer lip service, but must continue to take steps to produce results.