For almost two decades, China remained one of the top five most polluted countries in the world. But after launching a successful “war against pollution” in 2014, China was able to reduce its particulate pollution by 39 percent—dropping the country from its top five ranking in recent years. In fact, from 2013 to 2018, almost three-quarters of the global reduction in particulate pollution came from China. If the reductions are sustained, China’s people can expect to live 2.1 years longer. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, one of China’s most polluted areas in 2013, saw a 41 percent reduction in particulate pollution, translating to a gain of 3.4 years of life expectancy for its 108 million residents, if sustained.
- Despite significant progress over a short time, China’s particulate pollution is still three times the WHO guideline, making it the seventh
most polluted country in the world.
- Ninety-nine percent of China’s 1.4 billion people live in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO
guideline. Forty-three percent live in areas where particulate pollution exceeds the national standard.
- If pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guideline, Chinese people could gain an additional 2.3 years onto their lives
- In parts of Hebei and Henan provinces, home to much of the country’s coal and steel industries, residents could see their life
expectancies rise by up to an additional 5 years if pollution levels met the WHO guideline.
- While Beijing saw a 37 percent reduction in particulate pollution from 2013-2018—gaining 2.7 years in life expectancy if the
reduction is sustained—residents could further gain 1.2 years if the city’s pollution met China’s national standard, or 3.5 years if it
met the WHO guideline.
Explore The Data
Data for Potential Change in Life Expectancy
10 States with Largest Potential Life Expectancy Gain
10 Most Polluted States
To achieve further improvements, the Chinese government announced in July 2018 a new plan to reduce pollution from 2018 to 2020. Regions that did not meet the national air quality standard of 35 µg/m3 would need to reduce particulate pollution by 18 percent relative to 2015 levels. Though the national targets are less ambitious than those set for 2013-2017, some prefectures set more stringent targets for themselves in their local five-year plans. For example, Beijing committed itself to a 30 percent reduction from 2015 levels by 2020.
China: National Air Quality Action Plan (2013)
China’s War on Pollution Has Cut Smog by 39%
After five years fighting a “War on Pollution,” China has seen remarkable progress in reducing pollution and winning its war. If these improvements are sustained, people in China could see their life expectancy increase by nearly 2.1 years.Learn More