The general perception about China’s air quality is something closer to the industrial revolution than a Caribbean resort. While this is certainly the case in many cities, Shanghai is going through its own revolution in air quality. Part of this is a result of changing economics, with industry moving to the interior of the country, and part of it is exposure. Since the World Expo in 2010, Shanghai’s air has steadily improved. Sure, it still has its hazy days but these are becoming fewer and fewer.
This isn’t just about perception either. New tracking mechanisms by both the U.S. Consulate and the Shanghai Government provide hourly updates on pollution measurements. These are the result of public pressure to create a warning system for days that are heavily polluted. The jury is still out on whether or not people use the tracking systems. Among the expat community, the air quality indices are a common topic of conversation. They are also serving as a means of comparison between Shanghai’s air quality and those of other major Chinese cities.
Looking to the future, it is this comparison that will likely change public opinion towards air pollution across the country. If Shanghai consistently has excellent air quality, while places like Beijing are hazardous, people will begin to question why. For now, at least, change is certainly in the air.