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The before-and-after photos of Beijing’s toxic smog and blue skies

Pollution in Beijing: Wearing masks on Jan. 4; breathing deep on Jan. 8.
Left: AP/Andy Wong; Right: EPA/How Hwee Young
Wearing masks on Jan. 4 in Beijing; breathing deep on Jan. 8.
By Echo Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Relatively fresh air is returning to Beijing, thanks to some chilly winds. For much of the past week the Chinese capital has been smothered in a fog so thick that it’s cut visibility in some cases to just 50 meters (55 yards). Authorities issued the city’s first-ever red alert for fog on Jan. 3-4.

That wasn’t the worst part. The fog conspired with dangerous levels of smog. From Dec. 30 to Jan. 7, the city issued its second-highest orange alert for air pollution.

Other parts of northern and eastern China were also affected, with dozens of cities issuing strong alerts for air pollution. Even neighbors of mainland China—including Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong—have suffered from the bad air.

Below, some before-and-after photos of Beijing:

Reuters/Jason Lee
An Air China plane flies amid heavy smog over a suburb of Beijing on Jan. 2, 2017.
AP/Andy Wong
A foreign tourist and a child wearing protection masks walk through Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Jan. 4, 2017.
Reuters/Jason Lee
A woman wearing a mask walks along a street in Beijing on Jan. 5, 2017.
Reuters/Jason Lee
A worker maintains a street light in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Jan. 6, 2017.

Now, with the city’s pollution levels finally coming down to a moderate level, people are seizing the chance to take a deep breath.

EPA/How Hwee Young
A conductor leads a performance on Jan. 8, 2017.
EPA/How Hwee Young
A Chinese elderly man exercising in a Beijing park on Jan. 8, 2017.
EPA/How Hwee Young
A Chinese elderly woman exercising with racquets in a Beijing park on Jan. 8, 2017.
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
A man with crutches stretches his legs as his dog rests near him in Beijing on Jan. 8, 2017.

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