In the capital, Beijing, at the weekend, air pollution soared past levels considered hazardous by the World Health Organization. The official People's Daily said the smog was a "suffocating siege" which had to be urgently addressed.
The state-run China Daily said the country had to learn to balance development with quality of life. Meanwhile, the tabloid Global Times said China was risking serious long-term environmental damage. Smog also dominated social media sites.
Over the week, a dense smog had been gathering over Beijing and some 30 other cities in northern and eastern China, with visibility down to 100m in some places. Official Beijing city readings on Saturday suggested pollution levels of over 400. An unofficial reading from a monitor at the US embassy recorded levels of over 800.
WHO guidelines say average concentrations of the tiniest pollution particles - called PM2.5 - should be no more than 25 microgrammes per cubic metre. Air is unhealthy above 100 microgrammes and at 300, all children and elderly people should remain indoors.