Beijing’s smog-choked skies to clear just in time for Donald Trump to sweep into town
Northerly winds are expected to disperse pollution in time for US president’s visit to China
Smog shrouding Beijing is expected to clear just in time for US President Donald Trump’s first state trip to China this week.
The Chinese capital issued an orange pollution alert – the second highest in the city’s four-tier system – on Thursday, forecasting that the smog would peak on Monday before abating on Tuesday as northerly winds swept in.
The China Meteorological Administration said a mass of cold air would also move in from the north on Wednesday, helping to disperse the pollution on the first day of the trip.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said emissions from trucks and factories, and greater use of heaters had worsened the capital’s air quality in recent days, with Beijing’s air quality index rising to “unhealthy” levels on Sunday afternoon.
The heavy smog over the weekend prompted the authorities to impose strict pollution-control measures across the north. From Saturday, Beijing ordered construction put on hold and high-emission vehicles off the road. Barbecues were also banned.
In Hebei province, an industrial heartland surrounding Beijing, factories were told to further cut output.
The capital often tries to clear the skies ahead of high-profile events but does not always succeed. While the sky turned blue for the Apec summit in 2014 and the parliamentary meeting in March, smog blanketed the city during a key Communist Party congress last month.
The central government has pledged to tackle the country’s hazardous smog, a source of public discontent and damage to China’s international reputation.
But progress from the various anti-pollution initiatives over the years has been limited, with the smog season arriving earlier than usual this autumn.
Part of the problem is that polluting factories are frequently found to be churning out more steel or aluminium than they are supposed to, and many residents who should have natural gas-fired heaters continue to use cheap coal to keep energy bills down.
After an inspection this month, the environment ministry named more than 30 villages in the northern provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shanxi that had failed to eliminate coal-fired heaters as required.