There are no clean air cities in China, regardless of the optimism. I came to Xiamen island for the clear skies, and the smog followed.
I was taken in by the claims that there are “clean air cities” in China. Every once in a while the Chinese media comes out with lists of cities with the best air quality in the country, and I bit. I put in the research and came up with roughly five cities sizable enough to offer job opportunities for my wife that have relatively clean air.
By relative, I mean relative to China, not most of the world.
To get out of the smog of the Yangtze River region I moved my family to Xiamen. I thought that I was real smart for a while as the air was clean blue on most days. I would take trips around to other parts of the country, swim through their smog, and then return to this island off the coast of Fujian province with a sigh of relief.
Then the smog followed.
Winter is the worst season for air pollution in China. It’s when housing complexes and even entire villages in the north of the country fire up their coal powered central heating furnaces and cold, stagnant layers of air trap in the adulterated air.
This winter even the “clean air” cities are being hit. Sanya, which is on Hainan island dangling off southern China next to Vietnam, was taken by surprise when thick smog hit for the first time. Zhuhai and Shenzhen — coastal cities which often have clean(er) air regardless of the fact that they’re located within a major manufacturing corridor have also been posting atypically high PM2.5 levels. And Xiamen is also being caked.
The air here is hitting between 150 – 170, which is considered pretty good in most of the country. In Taizhou, Jiangsu this was considered normal as the readings regularly spiked over three hundred. And three hundred can be considered normal in some other parts of the country. Though the fact remains that 150 – 170 air is not clean. Besides Kunming and a few population centers in the mountains, perhaps, there truly are no clean air cities in China.