Aly Song / Reuters A man stands in a demolished steel factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, March 2, 2017.
Aly Song / Reuters A worker is seen at the recently demolished Hangzhou Steel and Iron Group factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 2, 2017.
Aly Song / Reuters A sector of the abandoned steel factor in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 2, 2017.
Aly Song / Reuters A worker cleans up the inside of an abandoned steel factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 2, 2017.
Aly Song / Reuters A worker walks across the grounds of the demolished steel factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 2, 2017.
Aly Song / Reuters A factory worker walks through trash and deserted parts at a former steel factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 2, 2017.
Aly Song / Reuters Machines are left to rust after the demolition of a steel factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 2, 2017.
Aly Song / Reuters Workers walk offsite, after a steel plant was demolished to combat air pollution in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, March 2, 2017.

China's Factory Shutdowns

Clearing Out the Industrial North to Clean the Air

Toward the end of last year, China's environmental authorities issued a red alert across 23 cities in northern China as air pollution rose to levels 50 times above what the World Health Organization deems safe. Schools shut down, traffic halted, flights remained grounded due to low visibility, and wealthier urban dwellers, dubbed "smog refugees," ran off to the countryside to catch their breaths. In an effort to clear the smog, the government shuttered over 1,000 factories in the region, a large portion of which produced steel. Many of those factories have since been abandoned, but the air, at least, has gotten a little cleaner.

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