The Smoke is Nothing New

A big story in the news in China this week was a yellow haze that enveloped the central city of Wuhan. A couple of netizens went online and suggested that it was the result of a chlorine leak, which stirred up the masses, which forced the government to declare that there was no leak; the cause of the smoke was farmers burning off old stalks in their fields.

Then they arrested the rumor-mongers.

Since then there has been much debate about the plausibility of the haze being the result of smoke, with netizens (Chinese and foreign) wondering why this would suddenly be a new phenomenon, given the fact that peasants burn their fields every year.

Well, it isn’t new.

In the early 2000’s Beijing even had the word “smoke” as a category for the weather forcast.  I wrote about it in a post to this blog in November of 2005:

Tonight as I was riding home on my bicycle, I noticed the air smelled of smoke.  When I got home I checked the Yahoo! weather for Beijing (I need to know how many layers of clothes to wear tomorrow), and, under “current conditions,” it said, simply, SMOKE.  This is the only city I know of where SMOKE is one of the possible descriptors used for the weather report.  It’s not uncommon to get SMOKE this time of year because all across the North China Plains, peasants are burning the fields after the harvest.  I’ve been in rural areas of Shandong this time of year where it was so thick you could barely see across the street.

But here’s a thought….in a society where 70% of the males smoke, does anyone really notice?

Cough, cough.

Nobody fussed. Nobody started rumors. We just donned our masks or stayed indoors.

Peasants burning their fields and whole cities being enveloped by the resulting smoke is nothing new in China.

What is new is an internet environment that allows millions to go online and fuss.

[Image Source: The Raw Story]