Commentaries by two of the nation's most influential news outlets suggesting that an ongoing air pollution crisis is not without a silver lining drew a withering reaction from web users and other media.
In online commentaries, China Central Television and the People's Daily- held Global Times had both tried to put a positive spin on the smog problem.
TheGlobal Times said smog could be useful in military situations, as it could hinder guided missiles, while CCTV listed five "unforeseen rewards," including helping people's sense of humor.
While both posts have since been taken down, newspapers lost little time in denouncing them in an unusual case of state media criticizing their peers, indicating the scale of anger.
"Is the smog supposed to lift if we laugh about it?" wrote the Beijing Business Today, published by the city government's official Beijing Daily. "Smog affects our breathing. We hope it does not affect our thinking."
The Dongguan Times said CCTV's comments were so bizarre people did not know "whether to laugh or cry."
"There's nothing funny about the health dangers of smog," it wrote.
Even Xinhua News Agency - which initially picked up CCTV's commentary - weighed in, writing on an official microblog that it was "totally inappropriate" to make fun of pollution.
Air quality has worried leaders anxious to douse potential unrest as a more affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has poisoned much of the nation's air, water and soil.
Large parts of the east, including Shanghai, have been covered in a thick pall of smog over the past week.
Sina Weibo users also vented outrage over the CCTV and Global Times posts.
"The smog crisis reveals the failure of the development strategy of only going after [growth]. CCTV is shameless in trying to cover up for its masters," wrote a Peking University professor.
And state TV in Shandong blogged: "The Global Times thinks pollution will cause missiles to miss their targets ... How shameful! So that's what all this smog has really been about. People thought it was just bad pollution."