China is suffering from severe air pollution from fine particulate matter [≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5)], especially East China. But its future trends and potential health impacts remain unclear. The study objectives were to project future trends of PM2.5 and its short-term effect on mortality in East China by 2030. First, daily changes in PM2.5 concentrations between 2005 and 2030 were projected under the "current legislation" scenario (CLE) and the "maximum technically feasible reduction" scenario (MFR). Then, they were linked to six population projections, two mortality rate projections, and PM2.5-mortality associations to estimate the changes in PM2.5-related mortality in East China between 2005 and 2030. Under the CLE scenario, the annual mean PM2.5 concentration was projected to decrease by 0.62 μg/m3 in East China, which could cause up to 124 000 additional deaths, when considering the population growth. Under the MFR scenario, the annual mean PM2.5 concentration was projected to decrease by 20.41 μg/m3 in East China. At least 230 000 deaths could be avoided by such a large reduction in PM2.5 concentration under MFR scenario, even after accounting for the population growth. Therefore, our results suggest that reducing PM2.5 concentration substantially in East China would benefit the public health. Otherwise, it may still remain as a great health risk in the future, especially when the population keeps growing.