D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray outlined his plan to improve the District's environmental quality in one of the world's most polluted cities Wednesday.

Midway through a weeklong economic development visit to China, Gray told an environmental conference in Beijing that the District was choosing a greener route of growth.

"We have a choice to either grow in a way that benefits our residents, our economy and our environment or allow historic inequities to continue to divide our city," Gray said. "I believe the choice is clear and we must plan for a city that is greener, healthier, more livable, more prosperous and more equitable."

Gray rolled out his signature environmental plan in April and proposed slashing the District's greenhouse emissions by half within 20 years, making the city's waterways suitable for fishing and swimming and increasing the availability of food grown in the area.

The presentation in the Chinese capital was a small part of Gray's trip, his first abroad since claiming the keys to the mayoral suite in January 2011.

Most of his visit to the Far East, though, is centered on promoting economic growth.

Gray will spend Thursday in Shanghai, China's gleaming financial hub, opening an economic office there.

The DC China Center, which will be housed in a Shanghai skyscraper, will give the city its first permanent presence in the fast-growing Asian market.

In an interview before he departed for China, Gray said the office could help the District snatch up new investors.

"We've been working on this almost from the time we came into office," Gray said. "We see it as part of a broadly based economic development program, and I think the failure to recognize the chances to have investors elsewhere is really a lost opportunity."

The District is not the first local or state government to set up shop in China. Iowa and Georgia are among the states with operations in the country, and California said earlier this year that it would reopen its offices there.SClBGray has also been using his visit to China to shore up the city's ties with former residents, and he met with Georgetown University alumni Wednesday.

Georgetown President John DeGioia is among the non-city officials making the trip, along with the dean of George Washington University's Business School and several developers.

The Beijing and U.S. governments are footing part of the bill for the visit by Gray and five other city officials. Gray's office said District taxpayers will be on the hook for about $22,000.