On one late-autumn day, Wang Ting, a resident in the Shanxi provincial capital of Taiyuan, took his family to the Jueweishan Mountain in the city's northwestern suburbs.
"In this season, the mountain is a huge palette of red, yellow and green," Wang said. "I took hundreds of pictures in one day, to record the most beautiful sights of Taiyuan."
Traditionally, autumn is the best season for Taiyuan, Wang said. "But that was not necessarily true in the past, when the city was plagued with pollution as a result of uncurbed emissions from heavy industry enterprises."
A change for the better, not only in Taiyuan but the entire Shanxi province, has taken place over the past few years thanks to the local government's and people's relentless efforts in environmental protection.
The transformation has been manifested in both the eyes of residents and the data released by the local government.
Statistics from the Shanxi Department of Ecology and Environment show that Shanxi had 72.1 percent of its days with an air quality reaching good and excellent levels in 2021, compared with 65.7 percent in 2017.The average annual concentration of PM 2.5 — particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers — reduced from 55 micrograms per cubic meter to 39 mcg per cu m over the past five years.
There is also a substantial improvement in water quality across rivers and lakes. The ratio of good and excellent levels of water quality increased from 55.2 percent in 2017 to 72.3 percent in 2021.
Wang Yanfeng, head of the department, said during a recent news conference that Shanxi has adhered to the principle of "green mountains and clear waters are as good as mountains of gold and silver" to achieve a balance between the environment and socioeconomic development over the past few years.
"Our initiatives include upgrading local industries to clean production, developing clean energy resources, reducing pollution and emissions, and fostering environmentally friendly industries as new growth drivers," Wang said.
After the industrial upgrades, Shanxi, traditionally a coal-producing province, is seeing 75 percent of its coal output generated from advanced and clean production facilities. In the power industry, 34.3 percent of the electricity in Shanxi now comes from new and renewable energy resources, according to Wang.
He added that 78 percent of Shanxi's GDP came from industries without direct connections to coal.
Cheng Guoyuan contributed to this story.