Two months ago, this factory - and this entire city, located in China's eastern province of Zhejiang - was a much quieter place. Inspection crews from the environmental bureau had shut businesses down, cutting electricity and gas so that they could determine who was following China's environmental laws and who wasn't.
The boss of this factory, who asked that his name not be used for fear of punishment by local officials, says he's never seen anything like it.
"It had a big impact on our business," he says. "We couldn't make the delivery date since we [were] shut down. It's not just our factory. All the factories out here had this issue."
This is happening across the country: Entire industrial regions of China are being temporarily shut down, and the unusual sight of blue skies is reappearing as environmental inspectors go about their work. After decades of doing little about the pollution that has plagued much of the country, China's government may be finally getting serious about enforcing its environmental laws.
"So, basically, you're seeing these inspectors go into factories for surprise inspections," says Gary Huang, founder of 80/20 Sourcing, which connects foreign clients with China's supply chain. "They're instituting daily fines, and sometimes — in the real severe cases — criminal enforcement. People are getting put in jail."
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