Beijing is already as developed as some Western nations, according to its Human Development Index (HDI), an indicator of quality of life and wealth, a Tsinghua University professor said at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China Sunday.
Hu Angang, director of the Research Center for Contemporary China at Tsinghua University and a leading economist, said the most recent statistics show that Beijing's HDI has reached 0.834.
This level is very high, normally considered as the level for a developed nation, and is the highest among all cities in China, the Beijing Morning Post reported Monday.
But other experts on Monday said the capital, with its traffic gridlock, poor environment and also unequal educational and medical resources, still has a long way to go to reach the same level as a developed country.
The HDI indicates residents' overall life expectancy, educational attainment and income, according to the United Nation's Human Development Report.
Hu said a Beijinger's average lifespan is 80.8 years, ahead of a US citizen's average of 78.6 years. Beijingers also enjoy an average of 12 years of education, the Beijing Morning Post reported.
Other experts and residents had different opinions on the capital's high HDI index.
Tang Renwu, director of the management school at Beijing Normal University, believes there is much still to be done before the capital can rank among developed international cities.
"For a capital city with a large population, it means little to just focus on the average index," said Tang.
"Beijing has lots of rich people, like pop stars, entrepreneurs and also government officials, who can raise the average statistics," he said.
There is a big gap between rich and poor, and rural and poor residents do not have access to the city's good medical and educational resources, he said.
Meanwhile, the city's traffic gridlock, terrible environment and also insufficient social security also need to be further improved, according to Tang.
The China Institute of City Competitiveness announced on its website their "happiness index" city list in July, which ranked Beijing as the 96th among the total 100 cities surveyed in China.
Li Na, a resident from Henan Province who sells ceramic tiles at Sihui construction materials market, Chaoyang district, said that as a migrant worker, her life is tough in the capital.
"My 5-year-old son attends a migrant school and writes his homework on the tiles in the store, and I can't afford to buy him toys or take him to the entertainment parks like other Beijing children," Li said.
For countries in the highest category of the HDI rankings in 2011, Barbados is the lowest with 0.818, and Norway is the first with 0.975. China's HDI is 0.687, ranked 101 out of 187 countries, according to the UN's Human Development Report on its website Monday.