|Buildings and streets are shrouded by smog in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 26, 2014. Many cities maintained alert for air pollution on Feb. 26 since fog and smog choked northern China days ago. (Xinhua/Li Mingfang)
Photos >>Smog lingers in Chinese cities
BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Smog has blanketed the Chinese capital for at least a week and the Great Hall of the People, where lawmakers will meet next week for the country's parliamentary session, is hardly visible.
Much of north and central China, or one-seventh of the country, was covered in the pall over the weekend.
Responses have included reduced industrial activities, a ban on fireworks and barbecues, raised pollution alerts and vehicles being pulled from the roads.
Citizens are advised to stay indoors while schools have either stopped classes or suspended outdoor activities.
But the real battleground in the smog war is arguably still on the horizon, with air pollution sure to be high on the agenda of next week's parliamentary meetings. Lawmakers around the country have already proposed legally binding targets to curb pollution.
And Chinese officials, after a long period of prioritizing economic development over environmental protection, are now likely to see their future career shaped by how effectively they combat the rampant pollution.
Before gathering in the capital next week, local legislators and political advisors have announced goals to clear air pollution. At least 15 provinces have signed deals that promise "marked improvement" in air quality in five years.
Among them, Beijing plans to throw 760 billion yuan (124 billion U.S. dollars) into these efforts. Its neighboring province of Hebei vowed to depose any official that allows more steel or cement production than a mandated quota. Shanghai has also proposed better coordination with provinces on the Yangtze Delta in work to reduce emissions.