2. Which trade deal will get its way?
The U.S. will be keen to drive negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but China is expected to push its own trade pact known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).
The latter has been on the APEC's agenda for years but has been relegated to the backseat as the U.S. focused on the TPP, a free-trade deal involving 11 nations but excludes China.
Analysts say the US-led TPP will likely remain the key agenda at this summit. "The U.S. is concerned that if APEC commences negotiations for the FTAAP, this could deflect focus away from the TPP and therefore the U.S. is unlikely to agree to FTAAP talks in Beijing," said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia.
Read MoreCan China host a smog-free APEC summit?
3. Will politics steal the show?
Bilateral meetings are set to take place on the sidelines of APEC and attention will fall on the scheduled talks between China's Xi and his western counterparts – U.S. President Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
However, confrontations over recent geopolitical events are unlikely.
"Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week that China wants to host a 'harmonious and smooth' APEC. Obama won't press on the issue of Ukraine because at present, he has too many things on his plate, from the midterm elections to ISIS," said NTU's Hoo.
A meeting between Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Chinese counterpart has not been confirmed but should it materialize, it is unlikely to mean a thaw in Sino-Japan ties.
"Speculations are that it will be an informal standing summit," said Hoo. "But that doesn't mean any fundamental change – it is more like a polite gesture. As Japan has been pushing for a meeting, if Xi was to reject, it won't reflect nicely on him."
Read MoreThanks to APEC, Beijing gets another 'Golden Week'
4. Beware of Hong Kong's 'Occupy Central'?
Student organizers of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests are reported to be seeking direct dialogue with China's top leaders when APEC gets under way. Officials have attempted to discourage the students from making the journey, with the city's Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, calling the idea "unrealistic."
"It is very unlikely that any significant Hong Kong-related protests will be aired in Beijing during the APEC Summit, which has a very heavy security blanket," Rajiv Biswas, senior director and Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS, wrote in an email.
"It is more likely that there could be some efforts by protestors in Hong Kong to attract international media attention during the APEC Summit, with plans by protestors to stage a march in Hong Kong to the Chinese government liaison office," he added.