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Fear the Airpocalypse
Chinese State Media Looks For Smog's Silver Lining

China’s omnipresent toxic smog isn’t all bad. It obscures potential missile targets, bolstering the country’s military defense, and it…improves affected citizens’ sense of humor? OK, you lost us. Both of those odd claims were championed by Chinese state-backed media on Monday, in what, if we’re being charitable, could be seen as a misguided attempt to make the best out of an untenable situation.

Unsurprisingly, these attempts to list the benefits of the country’s widespread air pollution problem were met with harsh criticism. Chinese social media erupted with outrage, showing no sign of the sense of humor supposedly stoked by smog. And, as Reuters reports, Chinese papers were quick to join in on the attack:

While both pieces have since been deleted from their websites, 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 the anger.

“Is the smog supposed to lift if we laugh about it?” wrote the Beijing Business Today, published by the city government’s official Beijing Daily. “Smog affects our breathing. We hope it does not affect our thinking.”

It’s likely that someone lost his job over this, and that CCP will come away from this episode somewhat chastened. Maybe this ham-handed whitewashing of a very serious issue would’ve gone over better in the pre-internet dark ages (though even that’s hard to believe), but the Chinese people are finding success in using social media to hold their government accountable, especially when it comes to pollution.

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  • Clayton Holbrook

    This is just wacky. This is definitely one those instances where maybe they should’ve sent this around the room one more time before publishing and releasing. Somebody along the way surely would’ve noticed how truly bizarre these claims are.

  • Rand Millar

    “as an obscure ancient sage once put it, they tithe mint and dill and cumin while neglecting the weightier matters of the law.” See the Bible, Book of Matthew, Chapter 23, verse 23. “Obscure ancient sage”?

    • Tom

      Sarcasm, Mr. Millar. Sarcasm.

      • Rand Millar


  • Anthony

    Concluding sentence for you WRM is uncharacteristically gloomy given your penchant for the sunny side of hope. We are (societally/globally) grappling with fundamental challenges to post World War II order. Optimistically, let us hope old “comforts” are not reverted to en masse.

    • Anthony

      Related observation WRM: “In his magnum opus The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Benjamin M. Friedman showed many examples of declining economic growth giving rise…to intolerance, aggressive nationalism, and war. He concluded that the value of a rising standard of living lies not just in the concrete improvement it brings to how individuals live but in how it shapes the social, political, and ultimately the moral character of a people.”

  • Pylaios

    The unseriousness with which Westminster has approached this referendum should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the recent European elections. The European political class ignored the writing on the wall then, and they continue to do so. If and when the UK holds a referendum on EU membership, even if pragmatics prevail and Britain stays in, expect more shock and dismay at an electorate willing to take the risk.

    That a left-of-center separatist movement in Scotland resembles a generally right-of-center Euroskeptic movement may only serve to illustrate how little difference there is in the ruling parties these days. If Scotland votes yes, Westminster will have no one else to blame but themselves.

    That said, one can imagine Tories quietly licking their lips at the prospect of a referendum that preserves the union while serving as evidence of a growing desire for devolution. Conspicuously left out of this analysis are the real losers in any case: Labour.

    • Ed

      Nobody has ever taken the Euro elections very seriously, because the European Parliament isn’t very significant, even within the EU. It never has been.

      As for ‘little difference between the ruling parties’, that’s a lazy comment which is trotted out constantly. But when voter turnout was well over 80% – there wasn’t that much difference between parties in the 1950s. It’s more complex than that.

      • Pylaios

        While I agree that the policy responsibilities of the European Parliament are relatively insignificant, to say that its composition is insignificant to the politics of the EU is, on its face, nonsense.

        And what I should have said is how little the electorate perceives a difference between the ruling parties. Certainly the mainstream parties in the UK and Europe have their differences, but the question here is about how the actions of voters depend on perceptions of their available choices.

        If the tails of the political distribution in the electorate have become fatter (and I believe it’s reasonable to say they have) relative to the political class, the relative difference may seem insignificant compared to their own experiences, which matters a great deal when discussing polls and results of popular referenda.

        Even more to the point when talking about the results of Euro elections. A ruling class dismisses them as insignificant (if politically valuable), and as such are content to simple issue the same basic manifestos with little appeal towards the part of the electorate actually engaged in the election. Only to be surprised to learn that an electorate occupying a different part of the political distribution than them uses the elections as a way to voice their dissatisfaction. Dismissing those voters than as ‘insignificant voices in an insignificant election’ will not, in the end, pay off.

  • bscook111

    The western world is losing its way. None of the governments have the support of their populace for weighty issues such as Russia, Islam, China or even lesser menace, foreign or domestic. Russia, at least in part, is driven by the knowledge that America and the west have lost their grip and this traditionally means license for the Teutons and Mongols. They aren’t having any more of that! It is not that a few radicals are creating a bad impression of Islam but rather it is that Islam is in the beginnings of riotous destructive behavior. China is probably merely taking advantage of global and local circumstances. The western states are debauched and hungover, and not as an isolated instance. Their traditional morality is diminished. All of this bodes ill for the globe. Death and destruction are the most traditional outcome. Who will do the killing and who will do the dying?

    • andrewp111

      Lots of people on all sides will be killing and dying. It is more a question of who will win and who will lose. Generally, powers do not win without a plan and a strategy unless they get really lucky and their enemies destroy each other.

    • Andrew Allison

      My only disagreement is that is should be “has lost” not “is losing”. The “entitlement” delusion will be the death of the western world.

    • CincinnatiRIck

      As the urbane Western societies gray and fail to maintain population and “liberate” themselves from their founding mythologies and values, the “backward” Islamic societies increase in vigor and will eventually supplant them…possibly even within the Western nations themselves. This is probably a more real threat in the long run to liberal values (especially women’s rights) than the more dramatic activities of terrorist radicals.

      It might be rather hypocritical to suggest that, in this clash of values, one viewpoint is any more valid than the other. In fact, rooted as it is in a theological base, the Moslem viewpoint may have superior “staying power” versus the moral relativism that seems to have taken over in the secular western world. Values that come from a mere government logically pale in comparison with those that come from a higher power.

      It is perhaps ironic that those with the most to lose should Western civilization fall, show the most reluctance to vigorously defend it. The contempt of the civilized and urbane is possibly the greatest weapon that all barbarians
      have ever possessed.

      • jimb82

        The saving grace for Western civilization (and I include Israel) is that we have science, and the Islamic world does not (indeed, it rejects it vociferously in many corners). As an example, the feast of Eid, the end of Ramadan, does not occur until an imam sees the new moon and pronounces it, and there is sometimes disagreement over whether the moon is new or not.

        As one commentator put it, “Muslim countries have nine scientists, engineers, and technicians per thousand people, compared with a world average of forty-one. In these nations, there are approximately 1,800 universities, but only 312 of those universities have scholars who have published journal articles. Of the fifty most-published of these universities, twenty-six are in Turkey, nine are in Iran, three each are in Malaysia and Egypt, Pakistan has two, and Uganda, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, and Azerbaijan each have one.
        There are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, but only two scientists from Muslim countries have won Nobel Prizes in science (one for physics in 1979, the other for chemistry in 1999). Forty-six Muslim countries combined contribute just 1 percent of the world’s scientific literature; Spain and India each contribute more of the world’s scientific literature than those countries taken together. In fact, although Spain is hardly an intellectual superpower, it translates more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past thousand years.”

        • mark abrams

          The non-multicultural west has science, muticulturalists having thrown away the ten commandment, do not have one god, one truth. They have many gods and truths or none (much the same thing) and so they are incapable of using science for anything but a quest for (other peoples) wealth and power. Since once one has abandoned a belief that there sucha thing as truth ,wealth and power is all that is left. For proof that western science is on track towards corrupt uselessness consider the acceptance of global warming as science or sex “change” therapy as medicine.

          • jimb82

            Eh, good point.

  • Andrew Allison

    This disintegrating UK jeremiad is becoming tedious. The UK is, today no more, and perhaps less, disunited than the USA. As WRM elucidates, among so-called “Democracies” the dissociation of the governing class from those they supposedly represent is widespread, and arguably nowhere more evident that in the USA. Harping in supposed UK disunity diverts attention from the real issues.

  • Rob

    Let Scotland go. Scotland is a drain on England, so let it go. Further, England is in dire shape and needs to recreate itself. It needs to start by expelling all the non-English. Especially the Muslims. Further, great nations have great foundations. England needs a German-like industrial economy, a scaled down welfare state, and return to God. Get out of the E.U. and start doing what the English were best at: set sail for new trading partners and innovation. Scotland could not qualify for the EU on its own, so let it fester up their in the cold rain. If England works its way back to world power again, you can readmit Scotland on England’s terms.

    • Ed

      You are aware how few Muslims there are in the UK, I hope? The number is tiny. And how do you propose we ‘expel them’ legally? Also – the Germans do not have a ‘scaled down welfare state’ compared to the UK. And fortunately over here we’re not interested in the sky fairy.

      • Rob

        Then, by all means Ed, let the Muslim gangs go on gang raping your young British girls as they have for 25 years while impotent, spineless pieces of PC dog crap like you let it happen without protecting them. Tiny Muslim population? American friends have come back from London and say its worse than L.A.! They say they don’t even recognize the city as European… an overpriced, overcrowded sewer. Your country is an embarrassing shadow of a former great nation filled with brainwashed, alcoholic idiots like you who ignore the gang raping of your own children and delude yourself that England is significant to anyone anymore!!!

      • Andrew Allison

        “In the 2011 census Office for National Statistics, the proportion of Muslims in London had risen to 12.4% of the population. In Newham and Tower Hamlets the percentages of Muslims were over 30%.” (

      • Washington Nearsider

        Which explains, of course, why “Mohammad” is the most popular name in the UK as of October 2010.

    • I BarKahn

      Great Britain’s–and a large part of NATO’s– nuclear deterrent fleet of nuclear missile armed Trident submarines reside at a highly protected, costly base at Scottland’s Gare Loch, and will have to relocate if Scottland votes for independence. There is, however, no similar base, in England, to relocate to and building another will take years and billions of pounds. Great Britain and NATO will be weakened and a world full of enemies of western democracy will be strengthened. Go back and think this through.

      • WFB56

        The UK retained Gibraltar, the US Guantanamo Bay, its not inconceivable that the Trident base would remain as a British domain in Scotland.
        This false argument is entirely overplayed.

        • I BarKahn

          The UK retains its Gibraltar base because, at Gibraltar’s wish, the UK is legally responsible for Gibraltar’s defense and because the presence of a British fleet keeps Spain at bay. The US retains Guantanamo Bay under a lease made with the then newly independent Cuba, which neither party can unilaterally break, and which was renewed on the same terms in the 1930s. It’s conceivable that the UK could retain its Trident base, but unlikely in view of the string Scottish Left that wants Scotland to be a “nuclear free zone.” Brush up on your history and don’t be so casual with western Europe’s security.

  • bflat879

    As far as Obama making the case, it would be pretty difficult considering he’s spent the past, almost 6 years, trying to divide the United States.

    • gates of vienna

      Not to mention his signals of obvious disdain toward England, that evil colonial oppressor of his native country. Obama’s dislike of all things “white” makes him a poor ally for any country even nominally part of the West.Obviously he’s stuck in a characterological quagmire at the personal level, wallowing in a primitive self-hatred which he projects in speeches laden with divisiveness.

    • Andrew Allison

      Trying to????

  • reader1

    The last paragraph is a doozy. He expects Obama to ‘make the case for the pillars of international order’? In the last three days the Administration has the Sec of State saying we are definitely not at war. The National Security Advisor says maybe we are, maybe we aren’t, it is only semantics. The White House Press Sec says definitely we are at war with ISIL. Whether a country is at war is one of the most profound decisions it can make. WRM, admit it, the present Administration is clueless and incompetent. Who in their right mind would listen to Obama anyway?

  • WFB56

    An excellent and well considered piece, thank you.

    As a Canadian living in the UK, I have watched in amazement as this issue has been botched from the Blair devolution of 1998 with its ridiculous attempt at asymmetric federalism through to the complacency of the Cameron Coalition Government today. After Thursday’s vote, we may have proof once more, that people don’t appreciate what they have until its gone.

    • 1952rmdg

      Yes, it seems to me that what the UK central government in London should have done (or should do post-referendum) is to have devised a federal system like Canada, the USA, Australia, Germany, and other large nations have to give Scotland, N. Ireland, Wales, and even England their own regional parliaments to address regional issues. The UK needs to remain united, but it does need to re-work the over-centralized situation it currently has.

      • Angel Martin

        Regional government hasn’t solved the Quebec separation problem.

        one thing that Quebec being a separate province allowed: before the first referendum they had set up all the basic institutions for a modern state to function – income, payroll, sales and corporate tax systems; old age pension plan; health providers payment system… etc

        as far as i can tell, Scotland has none of these things, in fact, on their pro-separation website they admit they will be dependent on the UK for tax collection for years to come (#26-30)

        these guys are not even close to being ready for separation.

        an “independent” scotland is as likely to be successful as bonnie prince charlie’s most futile campaign.

        • jimb82

          And if the “yes” campaign succeeds, the UK should give Scotland what it wants, good and hard. Start with cutting ties between the banks and the BOE. Give the Scots 3 months to form a central bank, and do business only through international banking protocols.

  • Brian Allan Cobb

    I’d hardly call Czechoslovakia half of Europe.

  • Brian Allan Cobb

    Mr. Mead thinks the husband should be able to compel the wife to stay in the marriage.

  • Brian Allan Cobb

    Iraq would have been a better example of Britain’s ruling class, “…overthrow[ing] third world dictators without thinking it through (Qaddafi)”.

    But, oops, that’s right, Mr. Mead supported the Iraq War.

  • Robbins Mitchell

    There will be no “Charles III”….but there will be a Henry X

    • TexasStomp

      Certainly. The relevant question is ‘King of what…who?” Will Scotland accept him as monarch? Or by voting to withdraw from the British Empire will they take the opportunity to rid themselves of a king as well?” And by what means? Interesting times…

      • Robbins Mitchell

        Indeed so,sir….I’m no fan of Scottish independence though…I had ancestors from Scotland and England…and I am content with the status quo

        • TexasStomp

          Do you live in Scotland? If not….what business is it of yours? I am also of Scottish ancestry on both sides. But I live in Texas. Not my bid’ness. What they decide to do is their call and I wish them well either way.

          • Robbins Mitchell

            Just stating my preference,that’s all….you got a problem with that,hoss?

          • TexasStomp

            Same here. and nope….and it’s Mizz hoss to you. :))))

          • Robbins Mitchell

            heh…my mistake….next time you’re in Houston,look me up…I’d like to buy you a nice cold McEwan Tartan Ale…or 4 or 5

          • TexasStomp

            LOL. Same here if you’re every up in Cowtown.

          • Robbins Mitchell

            Well like they say….”things are kind of slow in Ft Worth”…as always

  • themaskedblogger

    There is certainly no upside for the US in the Yes vote. The ramifications are many and difficult to predict, but it isn’t going to strengthen the UK, or Scotland, or NATO. That said, both the UK and the Scots are politically mature peoples, having enjoyed a form of democratic rule longer than we’ve been a nation. I wonder just how much of it is our business. And I wonder how far the principle of national (ok, tribal) interest should be carried. I would be greatly less concerned, for example, if the Catalans and/or the Basques were successful in stripping themselves out of Spain. Spain being the basket case it is, I might favor it. England is not Spain, of course, but how, exactly, is this morally or ethically different? Do i favor freedom, independence and self determination, or don’t i? The author is correct on one thing: if the purpose of Her Majesty’ government was to preserve the union, they have not done a particularly good job. And it’s probably time for Mr. Cameron to enjoy his retirement no matter what.

    • TexasStomp

      Amazing, isn’t it? Elizabeth, trying to sustain rule over the nation that once pledged its loyalty to Mary Queen of Scots, and in so doing averting a War of the Roses part deux?

      Her very adroit handling of the matter in stating the monarchy has NO dog in the political aspect of the fight may have secured continued rule for her Grandson, which IS her prime concern, but she rather hung the British gov’t out to dry in doing so.

      And maybe that’s where the British gov’t needs to be. The monarchy surrendered imperial rule long ago. I don’t see the queen has an imperative or the right to unbake that cake and try to reimpose rule that was surrendered to try and save Camron’s bacon. In fact I think that would be disastrous for the monarchy. Done is done.

      I also see the political and military pictures as a glass half full. While Scotland is far from booming, they hold a key niche market vital to both GB and NATO. I don’t see why Scotland would be denied membership in NATO given they are the ones building and birthing the bulk of the British N Atlantic fleet. Nor do I see, if that is what Scotland wants, that the EU would have a reason to deny them membership. They’re hardly Greece.

      Re the national interests of the people of Scotland…self determination is the foundational underpinning of free nations. Empire, by definition, constricts and often overrides the ability of self determination “for the greater good” which itself is determined not by the people of each part, but by the overarching rulers of the whole.

      What seemed inevitable, that the vote would go forward next week and looked to be a slanted toward leaving GB, may not be quite as clear now that GB is holding talks about engaging with NATO against IS. I’m not sure how enhanced involvement in this battle will impact voters in Scotland. Will they want out even more or will they once again join the world in fighting a deadly enemy. Depending on how Cameron manages the meeting next week, how or if he is able to guide and shape the result….may make or break his leadership position as well as that of Scotland.

      Meanwhile for us, this is history writ large and whatever the outcome we can say we were there.

      • sgthwjack

        “…self determination is the foundational underpinning of free nations.”

        That is a basic truth, something would be rulers refuse to understand. The root cause of the demise of all “Empires.”

      • themaskedblogger

        Just so. It’s a bigger steer than I can wrestle. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see… and hope we enjoy the ride 🙂

      • James_IIa

        There are whispers in Scotland about eventually ending the monarchy. Elizabeth and her family would be in a much better position if they were descended from the Stuarts, a Scottish line. In any case, the vote will be “no”.

        • TexasStomp

          Which vote will be “no”, James? The separation from GB or whether to end the Monarchy if they do vote to separate?

          • James_IIa

            Today’s vote.

          • TexasStomp

            So I take you think folks will vote to stay part of Great Britain AND to keep the monarchy?

          • James_IIa

            Up for a vote today is the Union, and I’m saying that the Scots will vote to stay in. In that case no question about the monarchy will arise. If the Scots became independent, they eventually would have to decide whether they want to retain a monarchy.

  • inyouri

    ‘If the President of the United States doesn’t make the case for the pillars of the international order”

    The president of the united states is not trusted, feared or respected at home or internationally. He is only capable of lying and dividing by class and race. Good luck with that.

  • gates of vienna

    This essay ranges far and wide while managing to stay On Topic…no easy feat.

    However, there are inevitable oversights:

    “Europe is filled with small nations (in Africa, they would be called tribes) who are part of larger states: Flemings, Catalans, Scots and Basques, for example.”

    Adding the Flemish to the mix is a categorical error. The “nation” of Belgium was cobbled together from disparate parts in order to serve as a buffer zone in the eternal European conflicts; it certainly never arose as a symbol of brotherly love between what are hostile pieces.

    Flanders deserves to be within its own cultural and linguistic comfort zone, i.e., with the Dutch. It has little in common with the Francophone socialists which it is doomed to support while the latter wallow in full and resentful Wallonian “entitlement myopia”. A state created in 1830 for the convenience of those in charge is not a state at all. It’s an artifact.

    There are strong parallels between this and the way in which Europe created artificial “countries” in the Middle East. We’re paying endlessly for that hubris.

  • CincinnatiRIck

    Have we considered the possibility that “the lady doth protest too much”? It would seem that the departure of Scotland, overwhelmingly Labour and a drain on the Treasury, would be a boon to the British Conservatives.

  • Stephen

    Ah, but they are a well-credentialled lot, our leaders: finely attuned to cultural nuance.

  • Allen Jacobs

    If these “elites” are “failing to grasp the situation” … then they’re not elite, are they?

  • karmashock

    Wrong. It is not the job of the people to defend these large institutions when they have proven repeatedly to be incompetent, corrupt, anti democratic, and easily controlled by would be oligarchs.

    I can’t speak for Scotland or England… That is their choice. They know more about their own country and people then I ever will.

    However, I can speak about my own American people and the failures of our government to justify its existence to us.

    We only have a strong federal government to deal with powerful foreign aggressors. Absent that threat, the US federal government was always preferred as small an irrelevant to local affairs as possible.

    Absent that threat… absent the threat of invasion… absent the government being able to do anything should we be invaded… absent the government stopping terrorists… absent the government stopping unchecked illegal immigration… What use do we have for it?

    If the government either won’t do their job or doesn’t think the job needs to be done… then why do we need to support it?

    These governments are very expensive. Politicians are allowed to waste huge sums of money taken from the people at gun point because it is considered a lesser of evils. We let them waste some of our money on the theory that enough of it will be spent protecting us from people that want to kill us all or literally enslave us. But if the politicians aren’t interested in doing that or don’t think it needs to be done… then why are we still sending them money or giving them authority?

    Don’t get me wrong, we should have some sort of government. But does it need to be some giant centralized monster? Not really. In the US at least, our local governments are quite capable of dealing with local problems. Doubtless someone from somewhere else might not agree but then you don’t live there. And just as I wouldn’t suggest that I know what is in Scotland’s interest, you might want to be careful about telling other people what is in their interest.

    As to the UK… Their choice… but if I felt safe from foreign armies marching on my lands I wouldn’t see the point of staying in a union with the UK. Why? I mean, why even stay as a united Scotland? Think Southern Scotland has the same interests as Northern Scotland? I doubt it. We could break back down into city states. Interdependent regional powers that each had their own system of government.

    Inefficient? No more so then the current system and really who thinks the current government is centralized for efficiency? It isn’t. Its about power. And the fewer people making decisions the more powerful those few become. Who’s interest is that in really? The argument was made in the US that we needed to invest war powers into ONE person so they could respond to threats quickly. This is generally taken to be reasonable. However, absent that need… why centralize at all?

    We have too few senators. Too few Congressman. The house of representatives would be a much more sensible body if it had thousands in it. We had hardly fewer congress people when we had a tenth the national population today. So no less efficient then then. It would however diminish the clout of any one congress person. As it should. They’re not nobility. They’re representatives. And the same goes for senators, etc. And in the 21st century is there any reason for them to all be based in an imperial capital? Have the various politicians teleconfrense from their district.

    The above while it might sound like crackpot nonsense is actually how you would sustain a large national power in the future. Business as usual isn’t going to cut it. The grumbling will get worse until the politicians decentralize and democratize.

  • owenmagoo

    Are they always a ‘vote away’ from separation?

    It is a divorce by 8% of the union, taking 32% of the land mass. Ironic that the potentially former UK took such effort to keep the country pristine and independent, and now they might choose it.

    A ton of emphasis on Scotland’s fate, but not Britain’s. If it goes badly for Scotland, it would portend far worse for UK. the day after a yes vote, the economy of the UK would shrink by 10%.

    the loss of the employment that was centered around that spigot would collapse the British economy. You cannot just rip 10% out of the engine of socialism and NOT expect cascading failures.

    there is a broad potential for a cascading failure that scares me far more for the the financial world that any supercollider that could be built.

    • owenmagoo

      More simply put…
      this is a far greater event than people understand, or are being ‘lead to believe’. Possibly more important than ISIS, and definitely more immediate. But there is no leader, there is no plan, and there is no tomorrow that anyone cares to see.

      This vote is very possibly the ‘break’ in billiards. In an inability to see a single outcome, no one sees that the balls are all going to get scattered.

      If England has an economic heart attack there isn’t a plan.

  • Sid Viscious

    Interestingly, I never once heard a serious discussion on secession before Barack Obama became president and comported himself like a king. (The Conch Republic doesn’t count…) It’s a terrible thing that a state like Texas actually might (rightly) consider itself better off as an independent nation than let its citizens be subjugated by a borg of a federal government. When it comes to leadership in the world Osama Bin Laden had it right: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse”.

    Obama is anything but a strong horse, and unfortunately, by extension the United States certainly doesn’t seem to be for many people.

  • Dr. Todd Collier

    “Obscure ancient sage?” Try Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew 23:23. Good heavens.

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