With Beijing authorities planning to showcase their green efforts in an eco-friendly complex in suburban Huairou district for the Apec summit next year, the public are left wondering whether the political and business leaders attending the forum will be choked by the capital's notorious smog.
Still under construction, the waterside complex near Yanqi Lake, a scenic spot about 50 kilometres from downtown, will include a convention centre, a hotel and 12 VIP villas. It will be run with clean energy and have all waste water and garbage treated, according to Zhao Huimin , the director general of Beijing's Foreign Affairs Office.
"Hosting next year's Apec summit will quicken Beijing's pace to became a world-class city," he said on Tuesday.
Dismissing concerns about choking smog during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, Zhao said the capital had already launched long-term plans to fight air pollution, including limiting population growth and the number of vehicles, phasing out polluting companies and strengthening vehicle-emission standards.
But some experts said the capital city would have to adopt temporary pollution-control measures similar to those in the lead-up to and during the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, such as pausing factory production and reducing vehicle use by half.
Ma Jun , director of the Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs, said emergency measures to curb air pollution - almost routine now for cities hosting large-scale events - could help Beijing avoid another "airpocalypse".
"But whether the city will see beautiful blue skies during the summit also depends much on weather conditions," Ma said, as it still relied on wind and rain to remove pollutants in the air.
The location of the summit complex in the capital's northern area provided an ideal haven, Ma noted, as it was generally cleaner than the downtown district and southern suburbs.
But some online commentators seemed less optimistic.
"When smog appears, it can shroud the whole of northern China. Yanqi Lake is only 50 kilometres away, there's no way to escape," read a comment on Sina Weibo. Other internet users objected when Zhao cited traditional cooking habits as one of major sources of pollution and asked the public to "co-operate".
One weibo user asked: "What does he mean by co-operating? Is director Zhao asking us to make do with cold cucumber salads?"
Some said the government should come up with a lottery system for permission to stir-fry and levy a tax on cooking oil, mocking Beijing's rules that limit car purchases and use.
Others maintained that Zhao was trying to shift the blame onto the public, when in fact the government had done little to regulate the polluters.
Beijing environmental authorities previously listed pollution drifting from nearby regions, emissions from vehicles and coal burning as the top three smog culprits.