Anybody who still wonders whether or not the 21st century will be led by Chinese innovation hasn’t been paying attention. The world’s most populous country has for years been chastised for its lax environmental standards, but has recently made several steps to establish itself as a leader in a clean future. The Chinese government is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in clean power, making itself the world’s biggest investor in renewables and creating millions of energy sector jobs in the process. More recently, the Chinese placed bans and restrictions on importing foreign garbage for recycling in order to cut down on harmful emissions released by the recycling process. Now, in a move intended to reduce fuel consumption, China has announced a halt to the production of 553 separate auto models which were deemed inefficient. Automakers will have to scramble to meet new standards or be left undersupplied.

The ban was announced by the China Vehicle Technology Service Center, a department within the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The new ban took place on January 1st with little advance notice and now has some automakers scrambling to find a solution for production shortfalls. Many Chinese-owned manufacturers like Chery and the Dongfeng Motor Corporation are affected, as well as several domestic-foreign partnerships including FAW-Volkswagen and Beijing Benz Automotive.

According to Chinese state newspaper Xinhua, the move is part of the government’s plan to promote sales of new energy vehicles, or NEVs. Chinese auto buyers who purchase hybrid and electric vehicles are eligible for tax deductions as part of this initiative. Air pollution is one of the most pressing health concerns in the Middle Kingdom, due in part to the huge boom in Chinese car ownership over the last few decades and previously more lenient environmental standards.

The new ban means that if foreign automakers want to continue taking advantage of China’s low manufacturing costs and infrastructure, they’ll have to start playing by Beijing’s rules when it comes to environmentalism. Who could have predicted the Chinese would become leaders in emissions standards? The future certainly has gotten strange already.