Asia Society Clearing the Air: China's Environmental Challenge
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“Blue sky days” in Beijing

August, 2003
March, 2011

What is the issue?

Rapid economic development in China has led to significant increases in emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.  In 2008, China surpassed the United States as the largest global emitter of greenhouse gases by volume.  On a per capita basis however, Americans emit five times as much greenhouse gas as Chinese.

What is a “blue sky day?”

The Chinese government terms all days with an Air Pollution Index (API) of 100 or less “blue sky days.” An API of 100, according the Chinese scale, is “slightly polluted.”  The government goal was to have 256, or 70%, blue sky days by 2008. They surpassed this target by 18 days.  In 1998, Beijing recorded only 100 “blue sky days;” in 2007, 246 were recorded.

What is API and how is it calculated?

Air pollution index (API), published by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, is derived from measurements of five pollutants: Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, PM10, Carbon Monoxide and Ozone.  The average concentration for each pollutant is calculated daily and the concentration of the pollutant with the highest API (0-500) will become that day’s major pollutant, recorded as that day’s API figure. In Beijing, PM10–particulate matter 10 microns or smaller–is the major pollutant most days.

What has been done to improve Beijing’s air?

The Chinese have invested about 120 billion yuan ($17.3 billion) over the last 10 years to improve air quality in the capital.  Although the levels of many major pollutants like Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide are now at target levels, the concentration of PM10, or inhalable particulate matter, remains above national targets.  During the Olympic Games, Beijing shut down upwind factories, halted construction and imposed strict traffic controls to control emissions.

Slowdown’s gift to Beijing: cleaner air

From Tini Tran, Associated Press, published April 4, 2009:

The global economic slowdown is helping to accomplish what some in China’s leadership have striven to do for years: rein in the insatiable demand for coal-powered energy that has fed the country’s breakneck growth but turned it into one of the world’s most polluted nations.

Smoking and Solid-Fuel-Burning in Homes in China Projected to Cause Millions of Deaths from Respiratory Diseases in Next Three Decades

From the Harvard School of Public Health, published October 6, 2008:

If current levels of smoking and biomass and coal fuel use in homes continues, between 2003 and 2033 there will be an estimated 65 million deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 18 million deaths from lung cancer in China, accounting for 19% and 5% of all deaths in that country during this period.

Dust Settles: Air Pollution in Beijing

Published on on August 7, 2008:

As the Beijing Olympics approach, photographer Sean Gallagher exposes the true extent of the city’s extreme air pollution.

U.S. Cyclists Are Masked, and Criticism Is Not

From the New York Times by Juliet Macur, published August 5, 2008:

After months of speculation about how Olympic athletes would react to the air quality problems here, some answers arrived at the airport Tuesday, when four track cyclists on the United States team stepped off their flight wearing masks over their mouths and noses.

IOC: Beijing’s air is safe for one and all

From the China Daily By Li Jing, published August 6, 2008:

Beijing’s air does not pose any health risk for athletes, officials and other visitors, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Tuesday.

Dispelling all fears over overcast and hazy skies in the city, the IOC said data on Beijing’s air quality is being assessed on an hourly basis.

Haze does not mean poor quality air, a senior Beijing environmental official said a week ago.

Study on ambient air quality in Beijing for the Olympic Games

Published by Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health (2008) Vol. I by Wang Wenxin et al.

This article, published online April 30, 2008, looks at the hard science behind Beijing’s pollution figures.  The research attempts to go beyond the Beijing Ministry of Environmental Protection numbers (which are listed with our photos) to determine the true sources and levels of major pollutants ahead of the Beijing Games.

China Announces More Pollution Controls

From the New York Times by Jim Yardley, published August 1, 2008:

China’s environmental regulators on Thursday unveiled stricter emergency pollution controls for the Olympic Games that would shutter more factories and expand traffic restrictions if air quality failed to meet approved standards once the competition began next week.

China’s Olympic Crossroads: Orville Schell on Moving Beyond Old Wounds

From the New York Times by Flora Zhang, published August 1, 2008:

The New York Times Olympics blog covers the 2008 Beijing Games from every angle — the politics, the arts, the culture, the competition. Reporters and editors from the sports, foreign and business desks, as well as bureaus in China and elsewhere, will be contributing items now through the games in August. Read Flora Zhang’s interview with Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations.

Olympic village opens for business

From the South China Morning Post via, published on July 28, 2008:

The 2008 Olympic village officially opened its doors to more than 16,000 athletes,
coaches and representatives on Sunday. But amid the colourful fanfare, a thick blanket
of smog continued to overshadow
Beijing. Watch the video.

Beijing Weighs Added Pollution Plans for Olympics

From the New York Times by Jim Yardley, published on July 29, 2008:

But on Monday, China’s official English-language newspaper, China Daily, ran a front-page story under a boldfaced headline: “Emergency green plan for Games.” The article warned that officials may force far more vehicles off city streets — possibly 90 percent of the city’s total — and temporarily close more factories.

Beijing Starts Driving Curbs to Ensure Clear Air

From Xinhua News Agency via

The Chinese capital began on Sunday a two-month-long control of vehicle use to ease traffic pressure and improve air quality 19 days before the opening of the Olympic Games.

According to a short-term traffic rule effective from July 20 through September 20, vehicles with even and odd plate number run on alternate days in the metropolis, which boasts 3.29 million vehicles.

Jet Lag Is No Sweat, but Just Try to Beat the Heat and the Smog

From the New York Times by Gina Kolata published on July 16, 2008:

Few could miss seeing the ever-present photos of Beijing shrouded in a gray mist of smog. Many have heard horror stories from athletes who have competed in Beijing.

The mountain biker Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski raced in Beijing last September. The air was thick with smog and he was convulsed with coughing fits. “I had to abandon the race,” he said. He was not alone. Only 8 of the 50 cyclists who started the race completed it, an attrition rate that is “just unheard of,” Horgan-Kobelski said.

Two Concerns for Olympics: Air and Access

From the New York Times, by Jim Yardley published on July 9, 2008:

With a month remaining before the Beijing Olympics, the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday praised the city’s preparations but also cited two “open issues” that remain: whether the city can deliver good air quality and fulfill promises to allow television networks to broadcast from non-Olympic sites.

Smoke Clears, Dust Does Not in Beijing

From the New York Times’ Globespotters by Donald Morrison published on June 1, 2008:

But there is a problem that may elude the best efforts of Bocog and its bureaucratic allies. It awaits me every morning on my windowsill: a layer of dust so thick you can write a newspaper article with your finger. Beijing lies downwind of the Gobi Desert, and every year, that dusty ocean advances by a few more li or chi or something toward the gates of the city, if those gates hadn’t been demolished by Mao and other visionaries.

China’s Silver Lining

From the Atlantic Monthly published in June 2008:

Here is what I learned by visiting the cement factory, and by seeing and asking about many similar “green” projects in China: China’s environmental situation is disastrous. And it is improving. Everyone knows about the first part. The second part is important too. Outside recognition of where and why China has made progress increases the prospects that it will make further advances.

Beijing pollution levels peak 73 days before Olympics

From AFP published on May 27, 2008

“Sensitive individuals should avoid going out of doors,” the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said on its website, announcing that air quality was at “hazardous” level five, the worst possible grade.

But the bureau said experts this time blamed poor air quality on annual springtime sandstorms in Mongolia and China’s region of Inner Mongolia that had blown thousands of tonnes of dust over the Chinese capital.

Report: Air quality during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

From Atmospheric Environment published on August 19, 2006:

China is taking major steps to improve Beijing’s air quality for the 2008 Olympic Games. However, concentrations of fine particulate matter and ozone in Beijing often exceed healthful levels in the summertime. Based on the US EPA’s Models-3/CMAQ model simulation over the Beijing region, we estimate that about 34% of PM2.5 on average and 35-60% of ozone during high ozone episodes at the Olympic Stadium site can be attributed to sources outside Beijing. Neighboring Hebei and Shandong Provinces and the Tianjin Municipality all exert significant influence on Beijing’s air quality. During sustained wind flow from the south, Hebei Province can contribute 50-70% of Beijing’s PM2.5 concentrations and 20-30% of ozone. Controlling only local sources in Beijing will not be sufficient to attain the air quality goal set for the Beijing Olympics. There is an urgent need for regional air quality management studies and new emission control strategies to ensure that the air quality goals for 2008 are met.

IOC: Beijing air quality not to harm athletes

From China Daily via Xinhua published on March 18, 2008:

Over the past few weeks, the IOC has made an analysis of a set of air quality data - including temperature, wind, humidity and SO2, NO2, CO, Ozone and PM10 readings - which were taken by the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau in August 2007 and given to the IOC.

“The findings indicate that, at Games time one year out, the health of athletes was largely not impaired,” said the Lausanne-based IOC in a statement.

IOC: Beijing Air Quality Could Put Athletes at Risk

From Environment News Service published on March 18, 2008:

World record marathoner Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia has announced that he will not participate in the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Gebrselassie, who suffers from exercise-related asthma, has expressed fears that the air pollution in the Chinese capital will threaten his health.

A new assessment of Beijing air quality released Monday by the International Olympic Committee’s Medical Commission acknowledges for the first time that athletes such as Gebrselassie might have something to worry about.

Olympians air a gripe about Beijing

From the Los Angeles Times published on May 12, 2008:

An increasing number of athletes are threatening to skip part or all of the Olympics because they believe the air is unsafe.

Jeff Ruffolo, a public relations consultant to the Beijing Olympics who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, says the concerns about air quality are similar to what he heard in the run-up to the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Cornell: Max Zhang uses cities as air-quality laboratories, including Olympic city Beijing

From Cornell University’s Chronicle Online published on May 1, 2008:

Zhang’s general research interests lie in what happens to the particles emitted from cars, trucks and power plants.

“I am interested in how these particles are made and how they disperse — how they transport and transform in the air,” Zhang said.

Science Daily: Improving Air Quality For 2008 Beijing Olympics

From Science Daily published on April 16, 2008:

“Air quality in Beijing in the summertime is dictated by meteorology and topography,” said David Streets, a senior scientist in Argonne’s Decision and Information Sciences Division. “Typically, temperatures are high, humidity is high, wind speeds are low, and the surrounding hills restrict venting of pollution. Thus, regional pollutants and ozone build up over several days until dispersed by wind or removed by rain.

Construction Halted Ahead of Games

From the New York Times by Andrew Jacobs published on April 15, 2008:

City officials laid out an ambitious series of measures on Monday that will freeze construction projects, slow down steel production and shut down quarries in and around this capital during the summer in an attempt to clear the air for the Olympics. Even spray-painting outdoors will be banned during the weeks before and after sporting events, which begin here on Aug. 8.

Measures to improve air quality in Beijing

From official Xinhua News Agency published on April 15, 2008:

Work at Beijing construction sites will be suspended in the run-up to, and during, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the municipal government announced yesterday.

The suspension - along with a slew of other initiatives - to be effective from July 20 to September 20, aims to ensure better air quality during the Games, said Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing environment protection bureau.

The Starting Line: Smog in Beijing and a London Stadium to Take Away

From the New York Times blog “Rings: 2008 Beijing Olympics” published on March 27, 2008:

With Beijing’s air quality plummeting because of a sandstorm blowing in today from Mongolia, the municipal government has declared an air quality emergency and advised people with respiratory problems to stay indoors.

Is Beijing Manipulating Air Pollution Statistics?

From Time magazine published March 14, 2008:

Steven Q. Andrews has written two op-eds for the Asian version of the Wall Street Journal, in which he accuses Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau of tweaking its method of calculating the city’s air pollution index. That index is critical, because it is used to tabulate “blue sky days,” which are the chief measure of Beijing’s ability to control air pollution. When the blue-sky program was launched in 1998, there were just 100 days; last year the city recorded 246. But Andrews alleges that by changing the makeup of Beijing’s air-pollution index, and dropping monitoring sites in areas with poor air quality, the city has been able to show improvements that don’t match the reality of its smoggy skies.

Radio - Beijing Air Quality to Challenge Olympic Athletes

From NPR’s Morning Edition published on March 11, 2008,:

Athletes competing in the Olympic Games this summer in Beijing have to overcome the city’s poor air quality. Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia has pulled out of the event. To find out what ways athletes may be affected by China s environmental conditions, Steve Inskeep talks to Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for USA Today.

Radio - China Tries to Clean Up Air

From NPR’s All Things Considered published on March 6, 2008:

China is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Michele Norris, who is in Beijing, talks to Melissa Block about what the country is doing to combat climate change. Deborah Seligsohn of the World Resources Institute discusses the measures China is taking to clean up the air before the Summer Olympics.

Radio - Beijing Races to Clear Its Skies Before the Olympics

From NPR’s All Things Considered published on Jan. 30, 2008:

With less than 200 days to go before the Beijing Olympics, China’s capital appears on schedule to finish work on its new hotels, stadiums and subway lines. But Beijing faces an uphill fight to solve its notorious air pollution problem by August, and the government is preparing to order traffic off the streets to try to keep skies blue.

Consultant Questions Beijing’s Claim of Cleaner Air

From the New York Times by Jim Yardley published on Jan. 10, 2008:

“Irregularities in the monitoring of air quality account for all reported improvements over the last nine years,” said Steven Q. Andrews, the author of the study, in a telephone interview. Mr. Andrews published an op-ed article about his study on Wednesday in the Asian edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Beijing Air Raises Questions for Olympics

From the New York Times by Juliet Macur published on Aug. 26, 2007:

At next year’s Olympics in Beijing, if pollution levels in that city are not abated to limits acceptable for the athletes, experts say, conditions for the marathon and other endurance events will be much worse than they were here Saturday.

Radio - China Alternates Cars to Manage Pollution

From NPR’s Morning Edition published on August 17, 2007:

To clean up the smog and gridlock before the Olympic Games, Beijing officials embarked on a trial run of a system of odd-even license plates. Because today is the 17th, only vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers can be on the roads. When the four-day trial ends, all cars will be back.

IOC president: Beijing air pollution could cause events to be delayed during 2008 Olympics

From IHT via AP published on August 7, 2007:

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, acknowledged Wednesday that Beijing’s air pollution could force the postponement of outdoor events during next year’s Olympics.

The statement from Rogge came just hours before Beijing was to celebrate the one-year mark in the countdown for next year’s opening ceremony. A party in Tiananmen Square to celebrate the moment was to be attended by 10,000 people, including Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Satellite data reveals Beijing as air pollution capital of world

From Guardian published on Oct. 31, 2005:

As it gears up to host the 2008 Olympic Games Beijing has been awarded an unwelcome new accolade: the air pollution capital of the world.

Satellite data has revealed that the city is one of the worst environmental victims of China’s spectacular economic growth, which has brought with it air pollution levels that are blamed for more than 400,000 premature deaths a year.


  1. David

    First I would like to say. Great work! To be able to see the pictures every day.

    What has hapend with the picture for the last months.

    I would be very interested to see them.

  2. Imee Baronda

    I’m aware with that…this is really happens also here in my country…but the government have a immediate response within…hoping it works before its too late…and praying for the discipline of people around it…Please help our environment….we’re the one has the great task on it!

    From the Philippines
    Imee for Kids, Adults and Teachers

  3. Marin Wedding Photography

    it is good that you have posted new updated photos.

  4. Karina

    Very informative. Thanks!

  5. Zoomag

    There are those who do good works for all of humanity. Your work is one example.

  6. Dr. Irving

    This is a very toughing video. Great job to all involved.

  7. Jason Li

    I hope Beijing (and other major Chinese cities) start to use PM2.5, instead of PM10, as the measurement of particulate matter pollution as soon as possible. Fine particles (represented by PM2.5) can do much more damage to human health, and are not adequately reflected by the PM10 standards. The “blue Sky Day” notion based on current PM10 standards is dangerously misleading. The same day could be called “Unhealthy” if it were measured by the PM2.5 standards established by the US EPA.



    Would like to say about the videa quality…; but most important, its contents.



  9. fokrul

    plzcall me 01710933033

  10. Anita Raymond

    I just stumbled across this site and i am amazed. I mean i understood that in chinese cities the pollution problem was getting worse. But i really didn’t know how bad the problem had become.

    Like David, I would love to know when you will be next updating this site? I want to know:

    Is the problem getting worse?

    Do you think its possible you will see blue sky before the end of this year?

    Web: Air Purifier Review Site

  11. himanshu


  12. David L. Alles

    What has happened? Your room with a view has stop at October 25, 2009. And your last Feedback comment was November 1, 2009. Your web site is dearly needed. I hope that the “Great Fire Wall” has not blocked your great work.

    Very concerned,

    David L. Alles
    Western Washington University, Washington, USA

  13. Asia Society

    Thank you VisitorfromCalifornia. We understand your feeling landing in Beijing, if you are indeed from California. That was why seeing Beijing’s air quality after living in California was such a heaven-to-hell contrast and why I decided to start this project in early 2007. Thus the presentation.

  14. Denis

    Very usefull photos.

  15. VisitorfromCalifornia

    these images are very representative of what you will encounter in Beijing. I stayed there for a week in June 2009, and got to see how it’s like to live in Beijing on a clear day and hot and muggy days. When I arrived, it was a clear day and Beijing looked beautiful. According to the US Embassy website, ,the measurements were below 30. The following days, however, thick smog started to envelop the city. I had difficulty breathing when outdoors, and when I was visiting the landmarks I tired easily. The last couple of days of my stay, I simply stayed indoors and refused to go out during midday hours. It was like being a prisoner. The measurements went up as high as 250. Beijing, and China in general, was not much fun for me because I couldn’t go out during many muggy days. In comparison, Bangkok, which has its share of traffic and not-so-great air quality, fares much better than Beijing and most Chinese cities where finding fresh air is like digging for gold.

  16. ChicagoGrad

    You can’t take measurements at one location and draw any reasonable conclusions. Also, the level of “fabricated” data presented by the US media during the Olympics was a disgrace. They tried their best to make Beijing appear as polluted as possible by taking readings standing on the side of busy streets. A friend of mine that works for one of the major news networks said that they would take dozens of readings in the most polluted areas they could find. He said the reading would vary widely, but that they would only report the highest they could find anywhere. He even mentioned that one of their “reporters” was laughing about holding the monitor up to the exhaust pipe of a bus to get a “good” reading.

    If you look at the data, you will find that Beijing has about the same level of pollution as Los Angeles, and during my visits to both cities I have found that to be the case. There are many scientists from the West involved with the official monitoring of air quality in Beijing, so all these numbers being tosseds around from the US media are nothing more than propaganda.

  17. mike

    Please consider to have a return to the land-caring and tending the land-planting tree’s by the millions plants all fruit bearing tree’s and plants-making the soil fertile and making this as part of the culture-here and there-everyday every year-planting watering harvesting-in rural china-mk

  18. David

    Great, that you have posted new updated photos. Very much apriciated!

    Keep on the good work! It is important.

  19. anon

    have you stopped posting new photos? almost a month has gone by now…

  20. Johan

    I live in Beijing and I can tell that the government figures are just fabricated lies. There is no connection between Beijing air quality and the official figures. For example, on June 18 & 19 the US Embassy’s measures went through the roof (The index stops at 500) giving daily averages 441 and 325 respectively, but official figure was just bit over hundred (104 & 158)! Almost a shiny day! And even being used to extremely bad air always present in Beijing, the pollution on that particular day was just horrible. I refused to leave home and carried my second air purifier next to my working desk.

    I have a gut feeling that once international attention moved away from Beijing air quality, the measurements went back to good old days when the daily number average can be fabricated to what ever to meet officials’ targets.

  21. Adrian

    Terrific website and visually stunning imagery!!

    I first had a hard time adjusting to the air pollution going from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Little did I know that the pollution in Hong Kong, where I currently reside, would be even worse.

    After looking at these images, I think it’s safe to say that Beijing takes air pollution to another extreme (and I’ll be moving there in a couple months).


  22. David


    I just want to say that this is a great web sight! I have lived for a couple of years in Beijing and left in the end of 2007. I can now keep updated on the weather in Beijing. Keep up the good work!


  23. Clare C

    The government figures that are shown on the following website are cherry picked, and do not display the full of extent of pollution in Beijing:

    On the other hand, the US Embassy’s figures from here are perhaps right beside a bad road, so may be artificially high:

    What I would say is that anybody who believes yesterday had a rating of 104, IIIa rating, “lightly polluted”, is a fool. It was easily above 300, 500 according to many indepdent websites. They stop recording at 500. If you walk about the streets when it’s like that, you’re crazy. I wear a respro mask outside in Beijing, but not everybody can afford these, particularly the native poorer Chinese population. I’ve heard enough coughing from everybody on these days to indicate that it’s not doing us any good.

    You should note that on some days where the smog isn’t so bad, the API air pollution rating is very high at times, so it’s not as easy to judge. Need to look at figures from websites to make your own conclusion.

  24. Nathan


    Is anyone aware of what the daily pollution patterns look like in Beijing? Usually in the US, pollution in major cities tends to be highest during the day an rush hours, while early morning and late evening tend to be much better, but I’ve heard that in Beijing this is not the case. Any ideas?

  25. Penny

    Thank you for this visual information. I am planning to visit Beijing next May and have upper respiratory issues that prevents me from staying more than a few days in that city. It looks like I will be wearing a mask in June. I live in Los Angeles and your photos look, even to me, pretty awful.

  26. Simon

    to Cathy’s question -
    the china ministry of environmental protection (mep) posts on its home page daily air quality rating for major chinese metropolitans in both english and chinese:

    I am under the impression that they put more weight on particulate matters than on other nasty small molecule pollutants, such as CO, NO, SO2 or O3, etc.

    Officially 1 stands for excellent, 2 good, 3 means lightly polluted. I have recently lived in a costal city for 2 months where majority of the time air quality was rated 1, but my experience told me that the downtown rarely saw clean air because of concentrated automobile exhaust and coal burning pollution (winter time). Personally I would exercise caution whenever a city air is rated 2, and would never go near a place with a rating of 3 - 3 means deadly/cancerous, imo.

  27. Kathi Indran


    My name is Karthi Indran. I am a student at Nottingham University. I am writing a project on the Beijing Olympics and the effects of air pollution to Chinese development.

    Would anyone be able to talk to me regarding their opinions on the matter of the Beijing Olympics being a step in the right direction for China (regarding the environment) or simply a publicity stunt.

    My email is


  28. Noah Mora

    Great video! Yes.. the air pollution here in China just seems to be consistent…. BAD!

    Every day, thousands all over China suffer from indoor air poisoning. Indoor air often becomes polarized, stale and toxic which in turn leads to many diseases and discomforts in breathing.

    I represent Blueair in China. We specialize in indoor air quality. Blueair products help relieve the discomfort of allergy and asthma symptoms and enhance respiratory health and well-being or everyone.

    There are a number of air purifiers available in the market today, each better than the other. Choosing one is always a hard and daunting task. The decision of what would be the best for your home would depend on a number of aspects.

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  29. Monirul Alam

    its a nice presentation, I think its very easy to understand about the subject.excellent work and thanks again to all . . .

  30. Cathy

    How does one check the Beijing Pollution Index on a daily basis? I am curious to know if its pollution, cloud or haze … It all seems pretty similar in Beijing at the moment and difficult to tell the difference!!

  31. bharat nikam

    Todays 1st need to protect the environmental making the air free frm the pollution.

  32. connie

    Hello, Could you mind sending me all the English words for the whole video. Thank you very much.

  33. AKHIL


  34. AKHIL


  35. Narayan Das

    Thease picture is very nice. I seem cleanleness is the most necessary for all. It gives us pleasure & protect unhealthy environment. Thanks to all.

  36. Kirill

    I live in Moscow, Russia and visited Beijing a couple of times, and all i have to say is that Beijing is much cleaner than Moscow in my opinion.

  37. Wendy

    I wonder what health risks my son will have by living in Beijing for a few years? I worry because he breaths this stuff every day and is a runner!

  38. Rebecca Harrington


    My name is Rebecca Harrington and I am a student at the Columbia University School of Journalism. I am writing a story on the environment in China, and I wanted to know if anyone who is in China now would be willing to talk to me about their experiences with pollution and air their grievances.

    My email is


    Performance improvement of the old inefficient Air Pollution Control Plants of all the industries, small and large, as well as inclusion of the Carbon dioxide absorption system for the emission from all the coal based thermal power plants and steel industries are urgently required to achieve sustainable economic growth.
    The above activities will drastically reduce the suspended solid particulates as well as the Carbon dioxide from the Industrial Emissions so as to reduce the rate of increase in Global Warming as well as the Climate Change.


  40. shaunda

    it is discusting how we humans have distroyed the environment and the air. we cause global warming, forcing animals out of there habitats, the polar ice caps to melt and in some places people having to wear masks… i am a junior in high school and even i see the horrible things going on today. people need to oppen there eyes and see the havice we are bringing on our planet… we need to start being the solution not the problem.

  41. Ruth

    WE are leaving for Beijing next week. What can we do to prevent air quality repiratory problems? Is it as bad this time of year as it is in the summer?

  42. David L. Alles

    David L. Alles

    There are those who do good works for all of humanity. Your work is one example.

    Along with air pollution, I also study dust storms in China and advise that your site note those days when air quality is affected by these storms. A recent example was from 2008-12-7 to 2008-12-12. The dust storm peaked on 2008-12-9 (Hohhot had an API of 205). A major confusion for everyone is when dust combines with anthropogenic smog. There is almost no current way to separate the two factors, except perhaps by color. Note the color of the pollution on 2008-12-7 and 2008-12-8.

    Again, best wishes on your excellent work.

  43. Nivedha

    excellent…….wonderful……and amazing work that cant be explained in words…..

  44. Dr. Manoj Pratap Singh

    Absolutely very good information for the people of the global world and also some praise words for Chinese government & their people for huge expenses and efforts to curb the air emissions to bring under or near their target level. we people of India can inspire ourselves from them and can manage our metros like Delhi, Mumbai, etc. But on other hand, U.S. and China as big guns should take responsibility of these emissions because air pollution is a global problem not binds in territory of any individual country so instead of playing blame game cooperate all around the world.

  45. Vance

    This is excellent. Have you thought about doing some image processing to create a slide bar of visibility vs. API?

    A couple of technical points:

    - The API calculation doesn’t include CO or O3, only NOx, PM10, and SO2.
    - In theory, you shouldn’t be averaging APIs, which is I believe what you are doing to calculate monthly “avg pollution.” The results can be misleading. I explain why in depth in a post on my blog:

    Vance (no relation to the Vance who posted before me)

    REPLY FROM MICHAEL ZHAO (ASIA SOCIETY): Thanks for your note. Yes, the data is from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and it mostly measures PM10, in a handful of days SO2, they are starting to include O3. We understand that the numbers are not that reliable but they are the best of what we can find. We also understand that it could be very misleading in averaging the API numbers, but we think it’s interesting to show some statistical progress, if any.

  46. Vance Ressler

    Very useful website for discussion of human impact on the environment. I am using this website as a resource in my geography/world studies course. This course is taught at the high school level (junior year, 16 and 17 year old students).

  47. apoorav jhawar

    Oh wow!I like this photos an vedio.It’s very cool.

  48. Scott

    It’s strange how the Chinese seem to be blamed for all the world pollution. It is the USA that produces more pollution per person than any other country. China is the biggest polluter because of the larger population, but indivudually produce less than the USA. It is good marketing (or propaganda) by the US government to blame China, as it does not share (and will never) it’s political ideals of so called ‘Democracy’. In the last few years it’s obvious that the USA has seen the benefit of greater Socialism, as we in Europe have seen and benifitted. The USA would like to see China break up into smaller self-governed provinces (or countries) to reduce the future success of the Chinese people, which seems to scare Americans.

  49. sanjay jaiswal

    its very good.nice prasentation.i wish for ur country….best is the best
    ….think best… best

  50. Tom Wittmann

    Even if there were a solution of the very complex polltion in China, there is ni chance in hell that it would be implemented
    Practically 90% of the private enterprises and many public ones do not comply with the existing regulations. An ironic fact is that Beijing is nearly
    the only place where the rules of the Central Government are taken seriously, but even there, the ever present corruption avoid their implementation. In the provinces, the local government have the real power and the corruption is practically the main institution

    Above is valid for many other of the great problems of China. Basically,
    the Chinese Central Government is only effective refraining political upheaval, otherwise is not able to really govern the country

    Above problems, together with the fact that nearly all the progress of the country is based on their flood of exports, a large proportion supported by Westen and Japanese companies manufacturing there, makes China a hostage of West, the progressive collapse of the exports
    due to the western crisis, but also the increased competition of other
    developping countries and the lack of quality and safety of their products,
    because of the failure of controls mainly (again) due to corruption,
    especially of the ones not masnufactured by Western subsidiaries, will
    probably, as the Chairman of the IMF states, reduce the GDP growths by 50% next year and induce grave consequences.
    She stimulus plan, even if it would work (which in this sorroundings is a big IF), will only be a drop in the sea.

    Things look quite murky, as the air of Beijing !!

  51. Nasir Aftab

    really amazing pictures and videos. A true China. A good indestrial country

  52. Ashokbhai Joshi Amravati {M.S.} India

    Very nice.

  53. sanjay

    This is awesome.

  54. Manir

    Very nice photo.

  55. aiqun

    I am really grateful for this work. I just wonder how to distinguish the polluted days from the natural cloudy and rain or snow days. I heard that during the Olympics in August 2008, the air quality in Beijing was the best through past several years. But from the photographs I can not find from the photos. Could you explain a little bit? I am from Beijing.

  56. cloud

    at least someones doing something good these days

  57. mike bateson

    I think this was put together by Brian Storm and his team if you like this work then go and check out some other great work by some amazing photographers.

  58. Wentao

    The video and photos are very good! I want to know whether these photo from July 25th, 2008 to Oct 8th, 2008 can be sent to my email address, and I’m a researching scientist about environmental pollution, Can I download the video for teaching?

  59. santhoshprabhu

    nice place

  60. prashant

    amazing……………..really ,mindblowing


    hi i am wasiq Sabir and bast website in the world

  62. bologne

    hello chineese public, how are you today? i am pleased to meet you

  63. su chin

    facinating video and outragious picture. Well done who ever set this up! Thanx for sharing you information with me!

  64. allarna

    Hey guys i love this photo

    larn xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  65. gurpreet

    it’s amazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing

  66. madhu.....hyd

    very good……….images and photos

  67. om

    beautiful photos

  68. Ahmed Ali Khan

    I visit the site, its a great achievement and struggle, is will make a difference ….

  69. randaddy

    it’s good to see the government and people doing something about this. this website is also very helpful for my geography assignment!

  70. mike bateson

    This in my opinion is possibly one of the fairest reports that has come out of China in recent times. I believe you have produced here a fair and factual piece of reportage relating to environmental issues in China especially at a time when many reports of poor air quality is coming out of China. The way you made it fair was by relating the issues in China to them in the west, i.e. when you discuss about how the dirty industries came to here in first place and also the way in which you gave the stat about how much the average American omits, through the interview with Orville Shell. This all contributes, through my research, to a fair and balanced understanding of a place, as if we can relate to it we can understand it and do something about it, but if the media still persists on playing to its audiences understanding of China or any other country for that matter we will never see fair and balanced reportage for many years to come, you have made a step in the right direction, well done. I hope to see more of your work.

  71. chinna...hyd

    veryy good ……images and photos

  72. ankur chauhan

    I am an indian.I like to verry much photography.So i vissit to your site too requested to give me some graphical photo.


  73. santosh kumar

    all photo is good



  75. tushar mhaslekar

    phatos are good. clipping is also good. every country should chalenge like Chinna. then no air pollution will be there but not only challenge they should do it.

  76. Ishita

    i wonder how much effort must have been put just 4 this one lil presntation 8) so many pics were taken :O wow.. reli..

  77. Ishita

    awesome :) we should kinda have such presentations in schools and colleges ^^ I wud love to see this awarness regarding envirnment in my school for sure :)
    by the way reli nice pictures :)

  78. nisar khan

    oll ektres photo

  79. vikash

    good photo

  80. s.k.chourey

    China is the super power of the world. And also it is a communist country. We wish China the best.

  81. varun kumar jain

    very grece ful…

  82. sunil

    it is a waste website

  83. Yangki Imade Suara

    This site could be my referred site for environment problem.

  84. abdulwadudmazumder

    I am an indian.I like to verry much photography.So i vissit to your site too requested to give me some graphical photo.


  85. olivia morrison


  86. fred

    i would love go there but its to smogy!@#$%^&*()_+|

  87. usman shahzad

    i want a job as photographer


    china is a nice city of the world.

  89. Allanj

    China can do what ever it wants, but if its smart then it won’t do want Dum ass G W Bush didn’t do and start cutting down on Green house gases. That what can put China ahead of the world and make it a good global citizen.

  90. g.janarthanan

    very nice and very grece ful pictures

  91. lokesh

    it’s too better to clear air

  92. lokesh

    china is a very tributial country they can do the wonders what ever they want

  93. Julian

    This is an amazing cross media project. It shows what is the limit in new media design. A webpage to come back many more times.

  94. me me me

    In Australia we are sad that China has so much pollution and we were wondering if there was any info there is that you couled give us to help out?

  95. sagar choudhury

    chinees people are doing the sacrifies for rest of the world beacuse we are all using their cheep products yet all this china able to get the highest number of gold medal. in the issue of polution usa creat the highest polution in the world why people not talking about this?

  96. Girish N.Patel

    veri veri good i love

  97. G.s.karthik-gitam-ipe

    why! only about china every developed and developing countries in this world were a mere cause for pollutiion.Besides even elixir has a side effect,you cant die even if you wanted why spill mud on eachother overall everyone commits mistakes.lets share the technofruit.but one should have keen opinion about surroundings.

  98. Scott

    It seems that any comments NOT blaming China for wold pollution are swiftly removed. So much for free speech!

  99. Scott

    Just check the facts of pollution per head of the population, you might be surprised…Of course China is a big polluter, afterall, 22% of the world’s population live there. Pollution is a GLOBAL problem and NOT a Chinese one. If more copied China’s example of using bicycles instead of ‘gas-guzzling’ 4×4s - especially when they don’t need such a vehicle - then more pollution would be reduced. It’s time to work as one world and stop blaming so many others. No matter who is to blame the whole world must work together to make the planet safe for future generations.

    It’s wonderful for China and the Chinese to host the olympics for the first time AND to make such an outstanding and historic event. China has arrived, move over USA and let a peaceful nation have more to say about the world we live in.

  100. shan

    China is the super power of the world. And also it is a communist country. Western capitalist countries dont like this situation at all. Hence they tend to complain and run down China in many ways. One is human right case. other one is environmental case. How about the env. Polution in other countries. Why only about China. Western countries are afraid of the gigantic development of a Communist Country like China. For asians, is a wonerful experience. The economical development is reflected by the number of gold medels won by China in the olympic games this time. We wish China the best.

  101. The Pariah

    Thank you, Asia Society, for one of the most balanced perspective on this issue of Global Climate Change and the blame game!

    If every American were to pay 0.5% carbon tax for every item that they buy that is stamped “Made in China” and this money is then designated strictly for a Chinese government-run fund (with oversight by America’s Environmental Protection Agency)to subsidize Chinese factories for installation or upgrading of pollution control, renewable energy, water recycling and energy efficiency measures, China will have Blue Skies within 5 years!

  102. felicity

    i agree with person. if we cut down on what we consume i think the invironment would be alot better.

  103. R Vasudevan

    The air over Beijing, if not the entire country, seems to have some sticky aspect that pollutants ar reluctant to get wafted away. The air should be still in these places They cover the city like a shroud. Already the chinese are heavy smokers and this pollution is certainly going to make the people there suffer more and longer, healthwise.
    R Vasudevan

  104. person

    May be if we all stopped being consumer addicts, the world wouldn’t be so screwed up. The U.S is the biggest offender. JUST STOP CONSUMER BEYOND WHAT YOU NEED!!!!

  105. fry

    (?????????+??????????) de yi si shi : qi che + kong tiao hui mie le ren lei de da qi huan jing , jiu suan chui duo da de huan bao ye bu yong le .(xi wang hui pin yin de neng kan dong)

  106. fry

    yun , jing ran bu zhi chi zhong wen ,ai ……,mei fa ,zhi neng da pin yin,kan you mei you zhong guo ren kan dong le ,………….wo zhe xie fu hao qi shi shi zhong wen zi lai de (??????????+???????????????????),zhi shi ni men de xi tong tai luo hou ,lian ge zhong wen dou bu jian rong,bu ming bai ,xian zai hai you ren yong zhe yang de xi tong,wo yuan hua shi zhe yang de : qi che + kong tiao hui mie le ren lei de da qi huan jing , jiu suan chui duo da de huan bao ,ye mei yong……………..

    Asia Society response: We are working to fix the problem with Chinese input now. We apologize for the inconvenience.

  107. Subramanian Mahadevan

    Looks like God is answering my prayers. Today’s view shows improvement over yesterday’s!

  108. curtis

    china is the biggest dumping ground and i think that you should do something about it cause i accspect i will go there some day so clean it up the video was pretty cool

  109. Subramanian Mahadevan

    My Dear tsetop,
    You have made your point. But I would rather not mix sports, particularly the Olympics with other issues, which must be addressed seperately.
    Its not that I have no compassion towards the Tibetans, or that I am insensitive to human rights violations, but using the Olympics to highlight these issues would be in bad sporting spirit.
    No matter in what all issues we differ, we must agree that the Olympics should be played out most successfully to the satisfaction of all sports loving fraternity.
    Thats why I pray to God that weather should co-operate and blow the air-pollution away from Beijing atleast till the end of the Games.

  110. wasantha ilapperuma

    subramanian, i also agree your story.realy they are hardly working and well planed this moment but dont spoil it. some one want to be unsessesfull this game.dont worry uncarege.

  111. Aurora

    Tsetop, are you in Tibet now? if so, you seem to have your freedom on telling everybody what’s really going on there, and can it be called ‘ heavily militarized’? if not, how do you know it is heavily militarized? why don’t you come and see for yourself? or you’re just being blindminded by those intentionally defame China?
    I’ve been to Tibet myself. I believe what i saw.

  112. aleesha and jessica

    me and my friend hope the air gets really better for the games if not i hope u survive and maby get a gold medal throght this struggle bye

  113. tsetop

    Subramanium, I agree that Chinese Olympic Organizers have worked extra hard in presenting an exceptional Olympic this time. However, I beg to differ on the point about them having nearly succeeded. One must not overlook what is happening in the backyard of this Olympic charade.

    Tibet after the recent protest continues to be heavily militarized and locked down. While Beijingers regale over the celebration of Olympics, Tibetans continue to live in an atmosphere of fear and terror.

    The issue of air quality should not therefore overshadow the bigger issue of Human Rights situation inside. I would therefore not go too far to be too generous in giving credit to the Chinese leaders like that.

  114. Subramanian Mahadevan

    I do really feel sorry for the Chinese Olympic organizers. They worked so hard for seven long years to showcase the games as proof of their having acheived world class abilities to invest and organise the world’s biggest sporting event. And they have nearly succeeded except for the control of air pollution that threatens to play spoil sport. Even though they cant believe in God, being communists, I do pray ‘God, please help them’.

    Your ‘Window with a view’ daily series has been most revealing. Afterall photos cant lie.

  115. kevin mpongo kevunu

    Pour le fumé,chaque pays du monde doivent conjuguer les éfforts considerables visant à proteger éfficassement l’environnement à giguler la pollution athmospherique sur les aspects ci-apres ,

    1.Protection de la couche d’Ozone.
    2.veuillez à l’augmentation de Gaze , …
    Ces aspects concerne l’écosystème.R.D.Congo.

  116. suyan

    I agree in China there a lot of pulotion, however the people who live there are more health than western people. Because they eat well, work hard and paceful mind, less people get diabetisc and hypertention. If you live in China, you will feel how wanderful contry it is and how nice the people they are. Do not blem the negative site, pls try to find the where it is the positive part

  117. Eunice Goetz

    I was in Beijing before during and after Chinese New Year..Jan 28 to Feb 15. I noticed on this photo diary that the before and after New Year week, the pollution was higher. During New Year week it was clearer.

    Also, one day during Chinese New Year week, while in my son’s apartment I got up about 3am to go to the bathroom and I looked out the window. Couldn’t see the next apartment building a block away.

  118. Catherine

    Would it be possible to provide closed captioning (or something similar) for you videos? I’m not allowed to have the volume up and I don’t have earphones, so I can’t follow what is going on. But the pictures (of the smoggy sky) are nice.

  119. tsetop

    By looking at the daily window view of the pollution level. I don’t think the smog level has anything to do with what Beijingers do. It seems everything depends on the wind direction and change in the weather condition. So I think if there will be a mild storm or a change in the weather, the sky should be clear and pollution level at the minimum on Aug 8th.

  120. Mehta S F

    I recently spent 10 weeks at my daughters residence in Beijing, between
    mid Mar to end May08. Although my wife and i saw polution on some days, surprisingly we felt much much healthier in Beijing than Bombay(Mumbai), where we hail from. Whereas in Bombay i would get easily tired, if i walked only a kilometer, in Beijing any amount of walking did not tire us! I even conveyed this strange experiance to my friends back at home and we have been unable to explain this nvironmentally.

  121. Yuancheng

    This is awesome.

  122. Reece

    Because China is communit, the people don’t need to be consulted when north americans decide to move factories that pollute…any protest over the acid rains and caustic chemicals in the air would immediate result in arrests. We live in relatively unpolluted cities but at the price of other humans elsewhere…I feel sad and hypocritical knowing that it is mostly our factories that are in China causing this.

  123. Butterfield

    When we moved our factory to China, we also moved our pollution to China.

  124. Jonathan

    Love the site! Thanks - and how wonderful to see that only 5 days in JUly were polluted in beijing! ;)

  125. Kennedy McClamb

    china is a dumping ground for the world america is not perfect but if we want to change for the better we all going to have to work together the whole world

  126. Mark Dowie


    Good to see you’re still on topic, and as always, on point. Of course the real question is what the air quality will be like in China in the months and years following the Olympics.

    In the meantime I hope that you and Bai Fang are breathing free in Beijing.


  127. Chris Lee

    China is the ‘world’s factory’ and Cheap, high quality goods from China are sold everywhere.
    US Labor Department figures show American shoppers are paying significantly LESS than they were four years ago for many typical Chinese exports.

    Many global firms have built their own factories in China, such as mobile phone firm Motorola and consumer electronics giant Philips and GE, because the low-cost labor.

    So PLEASE don’t just blame China, instead we should give them time and help to improve.

  128. China @ Crossroads

    Darn internet connections in China… only half the video will load.

    @ Charles - you are correct. They measure their readings differently, and in a manner that is not consistent.

    @ Liz - enjoy your work and cover is on Crossroads ( Hope someday to meet when you are back in China. there are a lot of very interesting things that are going on here in terms of developing solutions and awareness.

    @ Isabel - Also a huge fan of CD. some excellent writing lately

    A lot is being made of the recent events, and I am a bit surprised that the actions taken on removing more cars and shutting down more factories have not come quicker. I have been tracking a lot of domestic press and speaking to a number of firms, and we were all expecting a lot more closures here. The warning had been sent out, but perhaps the economic situation is preventing them?


  129. Chuckles McGee

    What do you have to say about the fact that China’s standard’s for measuring what is safe airwise is not the same as the EPAs? A “blue sky day” according to China’s standards is not necessarily healthy according to EPA standards.

  130. Liz Economy

    Great video Orville, et al.
    One small question–when you said U.S. per capita emissions of greenhouse gases are 5X that of China, is that for all GHG? For CO2, I believe the number is slightly under 4X. Thanks, Liz

  131. Richard Edmonds

    This room with a view is an excellent way to deal with this issue visually and this represents a great entry into Beijing’s air pollution problems. What is necessary is to build some bibliography (urls and books) that direct people to more detailed aspects of the problem such as problems about location of measurement sites, details about types of control needed to clean the air, more accurate detail as to causes of Beijing’s air pollution, and relationship of air pollution to water and solid waste pollution in Beijing.

  132. Isabel Hilton

    This looks great.. but when I play the video it skpis back to the beginniing when I hit the girl with the plaid skirt. I can’t seem to get past it..

    Asia Society response: - If the project does not automatically advance to the next chapter on completion of the video, just click on the “Room With a View” (or other) tab above the video. Clicking in the video will cause it to play again.

  133. ed

    Room with a view is great! Other photos give a very good perspective of Beijing. I was there last Oct and had 10 days of exceptional clear blue skies. Had to show pictures to prove it. The birdsnest stadium can’t be captured in a photo. The design and detail work is incredible close up.It looks like something out of Frank Gearys designs. Beijing was repainting and fixing many important structure, especially within the forbidden city, so the detail work is all freshly painted.The last of the Hutongs should be seen before they’re all destroyed. Its the areas where the people lived before the community housing projects, the equivalent of a city block or two, with original housing. Also see the art center, called the Factory… an old manufacturing facility converted to an Art Center with 100 exhibitors.

  134. Burdetta Rossow

    Audio is choppy when I attempted to view videos. I have Flash Player 9 and Windows Media Player. I never used to have this problem. How do I clear this problem.

    Asia Society response: hard to tell without knowing more about your computer. Try quitting and relaunching your browser. We recommend Firefox 3.0.

  135. Ryan

    Where are the photography credits?

    Some great shots in there.


    Asia Society response: Longing for Blue Skies photo credits are near the end of the video (5:28).

  136. spencer

    wonderful but the line breaks in the text at the video launch page are very inconsistent, and you need to use curly apostrophe vs. foot mark for possessives.

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