By: Michael Greenstone
On March 4, 2014, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, told almost 3,000 delegates at the National People’s Congress and many more watching live on state television, “We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty.”
The statement broke from the country’s longstanding policy of putting economic growth over environment, and many wondered whether China would really follow through.
Four years after that declaration, the data is in: China is winning, at record pace. In particular, cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates in the air by 32 percent on average, in just those four years.
The speed of the anti-pollution drive has raised important questions about its human costs. But if China sustains these reductions, recent research by my colleagues and me indicates that residents will see significant improvements to their health, extending their life spans by months or years.
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