• A Chinese woman wears a mask outside the Forbidden City due to heavy haze.

A Chinese woman wears a mask outside the Forbidden City due to heavy haze. (Photo : Reuters)

In addition to the announcement of its most recent data on air pollution in China, Greenpeace released a short film by notable Chinese director Jia Zhangke on Thursday.

According to the conservationist organization's report, a minor improvement in overall air conditions was documented, but pollution exceeded both national and international standards by large margins.

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In a nation where around 500,000 annual deaths are attributed to the poor air quality, more than 90 percent of the 190 cities that contributed data last year did not stay within China's limit pertaining to the yearly average level for fine particulates.

The monitored particulate matter is largely responsible for the problems experienced by China's population, as PM2.5, an abbreviation of "Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometers in size," was linked to 2,349 deaths in Beijing alone in 2010.

Greenpeace East Asia also managed to obtain data from the state's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), which showed that cities in China's Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei regions endure more than 100 haze days every year.

PM2.5 concentration on those days registered up to four times above the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The East Asia arm of the global body explained in a website statement:

"No matter their social class, everyone breathes the same air. Air pollution is the great equalizer, and not even the wealthy elite in Beijing with their indoor air filters and masks can totally escape an Airpocalypse."

For Jia, the issue of smog is "something that all the citizens of the country need to face, understand, and solve in the upcoming few years."

Jia explained to the public that his short film, "Smog Journeys," was made to enlighten people, "not frighten them." The filmmaker was forced to overcome his previous understanding of the matter during the production process, as he was "shocked" that people "still lived their lives as usual" during the heavily polluted haze days.