Under the Dome – Chai Jing’s environmental documentary

Chai Jing is a famous CCTV ( China Central Television) newsreader. She resigned when her daughter developed a tumour. Prompted by her daughter’s questions – “Mummy, what is a blue sky?” and “Mummy, why do you keep me indoors all the time?” she funded her own investigation about China’s pollution.

“Mummy, what’s a blue sky?”

The result is a documentary called “Under the Dome“.It can be seen on Youtube  here. It’s a hard-hitting commentary on just how bad the pollution can be, and the serious effects it has on people’s health.

Chai Jing bravely interviews officials, government workers, oil industry officials across China. She also interviews people severely affected by the smog: an elderly lady too sick to shoo flies, so she asks her family to stick fly paper to her stomach. An old man who holds many pictures of his family – all dead from lung cancer.

She talks about the polluting influence of coal, especially low -grade coal which causes extreme pollution and little energy. Oil, another major polluter.

The good news is, there ARE environmental standards – the bad news is – they are often not followed. Not when profit is the motive.

It’s not a pretty report. If you are not up to watching the whole movie, you can find it summarised here


Chai Jing’s documentary has gone viral in China. A week ago, when it was first released,  tens of millions of people watched it online in just 24 hours. Now the figure is estimated to be hundreds of millions of people who have watched the video.

Athe end of the video Chai Jing is hopeful, and encourages people to take action.  People online have been inspired: one commentator, who runs a fast-food shop, said he did not realise that fumes were emitted so has ordered  a filter to be installed. Others have said they will not drive their cars to work but will ride bicycles instead.

Whilst some netizens questioned her motives, most agreed she was admirable in funding and producing this movie herself.

Chai Jing reminds us that after the Great London Smog of 1952, Britain destroyed it’s coal plants and blue skies returned. China has gone through a massive industrialisation period, as other countries have done earlier. Regulations exist to counter environmental hazards – but are hampered by corruption. Chai Jing also shows how pollution would be cut substantially if the current regulations were enforced.

China’s current president Xi Jiping is known for his strict clampdown on corruption. Let’s hope the regulations become enforced.

Since winter is now over, the coal-burning heating systems in the north are no longer in operation. Outside my window, the effect is visible. The mornings are clear and crisp – well, clearer and crisper than they’ve been in a long time.

Chai Jing