This study investigates the changes in sunshine hours in relation to API (Air Pollution Index) across China. Data were collected from a total of 38 cities over the period of 1960–2009. Sunshine hours in over 84% of the cities significantly (p < 0.05) decline with an average of 16.7% for the 1960s–2000s. This decline is mainly prevalent over Sichuan Basin (22.4%), North China Plain (18.8%), and Yangtze River Delta (18.2%). While the sunshine hour decline is largely in the 20th century (with the strongest drop in the 1980s and the least in the 1990s), it rebounds by 0.3% after 2000. For especially in winter seasons and the North China region, API is negatively related with sunshine hours. For days with API > 80, sunshine hours are on the average 0.7 h d−1 (8.4%) shorter than for days with API ≤ 80 under clear-sky condition for 2001–2005. In cities with average daily API ≤ 80 and >80 for the 2000s, sunshine hour decline for the 1960s–2000s is 0.8 h d−1 (13.4%) and 1.0 h d−1 (15.9%) respectively. Winter seasons with high API (90) exhibit the highest sunshine hour decline (21.5%). The study shows that spatiotemporal changes in sunshine hours in China could largely be explained in terms of API.