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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.
SAME CITY

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

By Echo Huang

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:

An Air China passenger aircraft flies amid heavy smog over the suburb of Beijing, China on Jan.2, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Reuters/Jason Lee
An Air China plane flies amid heavy smog over a suburb of Beijing on Jan. 2, 2017.
A foreign tourist and a child wearing protection masks walk through Tiananmen Square in Beijing as the capital of China is blanked by heavy smog on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. China has long faced some of the worst air pollution in the world, blamed on its reliance of coal for energy and factory production, as well as a surplus of older, less efficient cars on its roads. Inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of standards have worsened the pollution problem. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
AP/Andy Wong
A foreign tourist and a child wearing protection masks walk through Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Jan. 4, 2017.
A woman wearing a mask walks along a street during smog on a polluted day in Beijing, China, January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee - RTX2XL01
Reuters/Jason Lee
A woman wearing a mask walks along a street in Beijing on Jan. 5, 2017.
A worker maintains a street light at Tiananmen Square among smog during a polluted day in Beijing on Jan. 6, 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.

A conductor leads Chinese residents of a choir singing in a park on a clear day after the end of a long orange alert for smog in Beijing, China, 08 January 2017. People came out in droves to enjoy clean air and clear skies in Beijing after the end of an orange alert for heavy air pollution which lasted seven days, beginning on 02 January 2017. EPA/HOW HWEE YOUNG
EPA/How Hwee Young
A conductor leads a performance on Jan. 8, 2017.
A Chinese elderly man exercising in a park on a clear day after the end of a long orange alert for smog in Beijing, China, 08 January 2017. People came out in droves to enjoy clean air and clear skies in Beijing after the end of an orange alert for heavy air pollution which lasted seven days, beginning on 02 January 2017. EPA/HOW HWEE YOUNG
EPA/How Hwee Young
A Chinese elderly man exercising in a Beijing park on Jan. 8, 2017.
epa05704300 A Chinese elderly woman exercising with racquets in a park on a clear day after the end of a long orange alert for smog in Beijing, China, 08 January 2017. People came out in droves to enjoy clean air and clear skies in Beijing after the end of an orange alert for heavy air pollution which lasted seven days, beginning on 02 January 2017. EPA/HOW HWEE YOUNG
EPA/How Hwee Young
A Chinese elderly woman exercising with racquets in a Beijing park on Jan. 8, 2017.
A man with crutches stretches his legs as his dog rests near him in Beijing, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. Residents enjoyed the reprieve after a weeklong smog alert as clean air returned to the Chinese capital. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
A man with crutches stretches his legs as his dog rests near him in Beijing on Jan. 8, 2017.