Summary of Drive for Clean Air Creates Chaos, Leaves Thousands Shivering

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Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s promise that the country would “make our skies blue again” is proving difficult to fulfill. December 2017 saw deadlines for a clean-air program aimed at converting three million households off coal heating – but planning failures and politicking brought chaos instead. Caixin Media’s Huang Kaixi, Zhou Chen, Zhou Tailai, Li Rongde and Wu Xiao report on the plight of the Chinese people who are paying the price of cleaner air with chattering teeth. getAbstract recommends this article to readers with an interest in China’s complex environmental, economic and public health challenges.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why many people in Northern China lack heating for the winter of 2017,
  • How Chinese authorities botched an ambitious clean-air program, and
  • Why Northern China is facing shortages of natural gas, plumbers and welders.

About the Authors

Huang Kaixi, Zhou Chen, Zhou Tailai, Li Rongde and Wu Xiao write for Beijing-based Caixin Media.



A new natural gas furnace stands useless while a shivering family warms its home with foraged wood. Children attend classes outdoors – in December – because their school lacks heat. Villagers and city dwellers alike secretly shovel forbidden coal into their furnaces. In Northern China, thousands are enduring subfreezing temperatures without adequate heating because of politicking and poor planning. In hundreds of villages in Hebei Province, authorities ordered households to dismantle their coal stoves, promising new gas furnaces. In some cases, the new heaters never arrived; in others, local government failed to build pipelines to supply the gas. Even where gas is available, many families can’t afford it: Planners underestimated the demand for gas, and now the region grapples with short supplies and rocketing prices. Residents of Beijing and Tianjin are shivering along with their rural cousins.