China's air quality is improving greatly

From data collected by 200 receivers across the country, the University of Chicago calculated that the rate of fine particles, which are very harmful to health, had dropped by 32% between 2013 and 2017 in China . If this trend continues, the average life expectancy of the Chinese would increase by 2.4 years, according to a US study released Tuesday . Fine particles (PM 2.5) play a role in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as cancer

Thousands of closed factories

" There is no example of a country achieving such a rapid reduction of air pollution is remarkable "said Michael Greenstone, who led the study at the Institute of Energy Policy at the University of Chicago. In contrast, it took more than a decade in the United States to achieve a comparable improvement after the enactment of an air law in 1970. " What the past four years have proven is that things can change, and even quickly, with political will ", observes Mr. Greenstone.

Under pressure from public opinion, the communist regime launched in 2013 an anti-pollution plan designed to reduce by a quarter the concentration of fine particles in key areas such as around Beijing and Shanghai. " China is not considered a democratic country, yet we see that the government has had to take measures that public opinion demanded ," notes Greenstone. The antipollution policy was, however, accompanied by an economic and social cost, the authorities ordering the closure of thousands of factories too close to the city center.

They also decreed at the end 2017 the end of coal heating, the main source of energy in China, in areas of the north of the country, even before gas heating systems could be installed. Schools in Hebei Province (north) had to make up their minds to classify in the courtyard, where the temperature was colder than in the interior … The winter, traditionally very polluted in the north of China, was relatively pure this year, but a peak of pollution hit Beijing on Tuesday, with a fine particle rate greater than 300 micrograms per m3, more than 12 times the standard recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). 19659006]