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A cold front that swept choking smog from northern China couldn’t have come sooner for Beijing’s mayor.

After days of hazardous pollution forced people to wear masks and huddle indoors, residents of China’s capital turned their attention to the mayor, Wang Anshun, and his bold vow last year to clear the air. If pollution wasn’t brought under control by 2017, Wang said at the time, he would cut off his own head and present it to the country’s leadership.

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