Did Beijing fail air pollution battle due to sandstorms?

Country/area: China

Organisation: CGTN

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 01/07/2021

Credit: Production Manager: Dai Yu Script: Anqi Zhang Data Analyst: Frank S.Chen Graphic & Motion Designer: Liu Yuetong & Shen Yuran Data Support: ABDAS Space Information Technology Editor: Liu Jianxi Senior Producer: Bi Jianlu


Shuwen Datanews

A data journalism team that specialize in creating multimedia content and offering technological support. Our products feature data news, animations, infographics, interactive work and data-backed research, in English or Chinese, along with other innovative services. Our core capabilities include identification of data sources, data analysis, data journalism production, information visualization and related research.   


An international media organization. It aims to provide global audiences with accurate and timely news coverage as well as rich audiovisual services, promoting communication and understanding between China and the world, and enhancing cultural exchanges and mutual trust between China and other countries.

Project description:

By combining a satellite GIF, vegetation maps and air quality index maps, the video explores the reasons behind several sandstorms that happened in Beijing in early 2021, and further presents the real situations of Beijing’s air quality over the past decade, as well as the whole country. Through accurate data and creative visual expressions, the video led the audience to our answer – The sandstorms early this year did offset the accomplishments Beijing has made during the battles against air pollution.

Impact reached:

The project shed light once again on the problem of air pollution in China, after the global media boom around the sandstorms had ceased in 2021, and bring viewers’ attention onto the development of China’s environment.

The video won Best Data Video Golden Prize in 2021 China Data Content Competition.

Techniques/technologies used:

Data: We collaborated with a satellite information technology company to get animated satellite cloud imageries, vegetation satellite maps and air quality index maps. In the process, we have seamless communication and make sure that every image is not only usable but also accurate and apply to multiple visual design standards.

The data analyzer scraped data online to get Beijing’s AQI and other air quality indicators over the course of the past decade.

Visual Design: Graphic and motion designers utilized Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and online tools for to make charts of different kinds.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The process of integrating resources and information from different sources into a four-minute video was the most difficult part. In the process of collecting data, we are figuring out a consistent and coherent narrative that could support all the materials, in which we could not only answer the question if Beijing’s air quality is getting worse, but also present air quality over the past decade around the country. The integration process is difficult in the painstaking detailed parts as well. For a single image, we need to make sure it’s up to the topography standards, designers standards and journalism standards.

What can others learn from this project?

The utilization of satellite technology into new reporting.

Project links: