When asked about how the government will deal with ever-worsening smog at a news conference on Wednesday at the conclusion of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislature, Premier Li Keqiang faced up to the severe environmental challenge China faces, saying the country should transform its development mode so that blue sky will not be a luxury.
Given that the frequent smog is a top concern of the public, how to offer a good ecological environment has become an urgent issue for the government to tackle. Long-time exposure to poisonous air not only endangers people's health, but also weakens the sense of happiness people should have as a result of economic and social development.
Li's words reflect the authorities' people-first approach concerning the environment issue.
At a news briefing in early January, Minister of Environmental Protection Chen Jining said that he felt guilty as the head of the environment watchdog when seeing slow or no progress in the treatment of air pollution.
Cai Qi, mayor of Beijing, also said in January that the first thing he does every day after getting up is to consult the air quality index.
"I completely understand the humorous and satirical comments made by netizens about the government's efforts to curb the smog", he said.
The growing calls from the public for a healthier environment have prompted the authorities to show greater urgency and resolve in the fight against air pollution. The government is directly responding to the appeals of the public for clean air by promoting better governance to protect the environment.
Bringing back the blue skies is by no means a task that can be finished overnight. But that does not mean the public should feel helpless when surrounded by poisonous air. It is hoped the premier's down-to-earth approach signals the government's greater determination to clean up the air.