Adapted with permission from Hug China.
Shanghai, China’s financial hub, appears determined to compete with Beijing, China’s political epicenter, in every aspect, including pollution.
Starting Thursday, smog has shrouded Shanghai and nearby provinces, with PM2.5 readings shooting from 200 micrograms per cubic meter to as high as 700 at some air quality monitoring stations.
As of 1 pm Friday, the average PM2.5 reading in Shanghai reached an off-the-charts level of 602.5; the PM10 reading reached 671, with the highest reading recorded at 726 in Putuo district.
In neighboring Jiangsu province, visibility was less than 200 meters, causing expressways to be shut down. Visibility was less than 50 meters in some areas of central and east China on Saturday.
Not surprisingly, the frequently occurring smog has sparked outrage and debate among Chinese netizens. But in a country where ordinary people have no say in the administration of their nation, they’re limited to criticizing, mocking, and sighing on the Internet.
As a result, a new buzzword has gone viral: “Feed People Smog” (喂人民服雾), or Wei renmin fuwu. It’s a homophone for “Serve the People” (为人民服务), a political slogan introduced by Mao Zedong as a requirement for all government officials and party cadres.
“Feed people smog” first appeared in the comment section of an article and was subsequently reposted on news portals and social media. The comment reads:
Currently many netizens are discussing a Chinese name for PM2.5. Some propose serious names such as “public smog source” (a homophone for civil servants), high-end names as “capital dust” or “Beijing dust,” hegemonic names as “dust-caused disease misses sweet” (a homophone for Genghis Khan), optimistic names as “dust world beautiful” (a homophone for the ancient Chinese heartbreaker Chen Shimei), and entertaining names as “keep inhaling dust” (a homophone for the Hong Kong actor Edison Chan). But all these names are just so-so in my opinion. I didn’t understand the power of the Chinese language until five characters came to me: “Feed the people smog!”
Cynical Chinese netizens have added more sarcastic comments:
A NetEase netizen from Shanghai: What the Japanese 731 army did not achieve has been all realized! Feed the people smog!
NetEase netizen 天一的天天下第一的一: A special scenery. Shanghai shall repackage and promote it and property prices will soon double.
NetEase netizen billlee2013: The atmosphere is good. Shanghai deserves its nickname Demon Capital.
A NetEase netizen from Shenzhen: Good phenomenon! Smog can enhance the immune system for Shanghai residents.