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Smog the people

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wèi rénmín fú wù 喂人民服雾

Smogging the people. (Source: Yuanzi)

Literally “feed smog to the people.” This play on Mao Zedong’s motto “serve the people” offers commentary on China’s ever-worsening air quality. While “smog the people” has been in use for several years, the phrase gained currency in October 2013, when smog stopped traffic and hindered tennis matches in Beijing and brought an “airpocalypse” to Harbin.

Around New Year’s 2014, many Weibo users called “smog the people” the biggest “watchword” of 2013.

In December of 2016, the phrase was used widely on Weibo by netizens commenting on dense smog in and around Chengdu, Sichuan, where authorities had cracked down on anti-pollution protests; and on the Beijing region where a "red alert" smog warning was issued for the first time in 2016. Netizens also used the phrase to accompany cellphone pictures of their smoggy surroundings.

See also serve the renminbi.