The heavy smog suffocating China's cities is increasingly being perceived as a threat by both the population and the authorities. Consequently, political action aiming at regulating ambient air pollution has become increasingly comprehensive and rigid in recent years. Even measures limiting consumption and production seem to become acceptable as China is facing an airpocalypse. Does this suggest a genesis of real “authoritarian environmentalism” (AE) in China? Taking this as a heuristic point of departure, we present findings from research on the implementation of air pollution control measures in Hangzhou city. We offer a critical examination of the concept of AE and, in particular, of local policy implementation strategies vis-à-vis the general public. Two measures in Hangzhou's air policy portfolio are analysed that reveal considerable variation: restrictions on the use of private cars and the (re)location of industrial facilities. Describing the conditions that have helped to produce different implementation strategies, we argue for different emphases in a potential Chinese model of AE. In a context where outcomes are sought at any cost, we observe more complexity and nuances than are usually captured by the AE concept.