In 2015, Beijing saw a 16 percent annual fall in the concentration of the most deadly type of air pollutant, according to an analysis by the Paulson Institute and Greenpeace of air quality data from the United States Embassy in Beijing. Though virtually all of those gains were registered during the summer and early fall, they still proved enough to make 2015 the cleanest year since the embassy began publishing data in 2008.
But even with those improvements, the air in Beijing and much of eastern China remained extremely toxic. Studies have linked air pollution to shrinking life expectancy and over a million deaths each year. Beijing’s average pollution levels in 2015 still put it well in the “unhealthy” range and far above international standards for acceptable air quality.