On seven of the first nine days of December, the air quality in Shanghai was so poor that the city warned children and the elderly to stay indoors. Flights and sporting events were canceled and stores sold out of face masks. Photographs of smog obscuring the Shanghai skyline circulated on the Internet. The pollution was even visible from space.
Then last Thursday the Shanghai environmental protection bureau announced it would take action to reduce the number of warnings — not by lowering pollution levels, but by lowering safety standards.