Chinese billionaire/philanthropist Chen Guangbiao‘s uniquely capitalist campaign to “protesting” air pollution has attracted a good bit of Western media attention over the past few weeks. Here’s the crazy thing: it’s working!
Chen first began selling his “canned fresh air” product last September in an effort to “heighten public awareness on environmental protection and the importance of clean air”– and this week we learned that it’s selling quite well despite the fact that the whole endeavor looks like nothing more than a big PR stunt.
The air–which was “collected” from low-pollution areas to be sold for less than a dollar a can in flavors like “Pristine Tibet”–has flown off urban Chinese supermarket shelves in recent weeks as a particularly brutal wave of smog washes over Beijing and the surrounding areas.
Was Chen really trying to convince the government to take action in combating pollution? Was he just looking to make money? Or does the “fresh air” project serve as a nice illustration of the inherent conflicts between a pseudo-capitalist economy and an authoritarian state?
Well, Chen claims to donate all the project’s profits to charity and he’s recently taken to handing out free cans in the street, so we’d call this a particularly creative and well-funded approach to issue-based advocacy campaigns.
Last but not least: You didn’t really think we’d forget this little nugget, did you?