Some of the actions went from aggressive to extraordinary. For example, the ministry of environmental protection released a 143-page “battle plan” last summer that included removing the coal boilers many homes and businesses used for winter heating — even though replacements were not yet available everywhere. This left some homeowners, businesses and even students without heat this winter.
Over the past few months, news began to trickle in that the efforts were working. So I decided to dig deeper. Using data from almost 250 government monitors throughout the country, which closely matches monitors maintained by the United States embassy in Beijing and consulates around the country, I found major improvements.