Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future
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For centuries, Beijing was closed off to the world, turned inward and literally built around the imperial Forbidden City, the emblem of all that was unknowable about China. But now the capital is reinventing itself to reflect China’s global influence, progress, and prosperity. When Tom Scocca arrived—an American eager to see another culture—Beijing was looking toward welcoming the world to its Olympics, and preparations were in full swing to renew itself.
Scocca discovered a city of contradictions—modern and ancient, friendly yet wary, bold and insecure. He talked to scientists tasked with changing the weather, and interviewed architects; checked out the campaign to stop public spitting; documented the planting of trees, the rerouting of traffic, the demolition of the old city, and the designs of a new metropolis, all the while finding the city more daunting, and more intimate. Beijing Welcomes You is a glimpse into the future and an encounter with an urban place we do not yet fully comprehend, and a superpower it is essential we get to know better.
prewritten the 8:08 figure into their coverage. Fireworks went off, and more dancers filled the stage, including teams in traditional lion-dancing costumes. A few pigeons were still lingering around the square. The dancetacular went on and on. On camera, the floor on the edge of the stage was twinkly underfoot, an effect not clearly visible from the press section. There were drummers, and the rhythm of the whole frenetic scene was not unlike the rhythm of “We Will Rock You.” At 8:08—there, the
baseball after 2008. But even a lame-duck sport needed to try out its venues. In the smaller of the two ballparks, I watched a French baseball team put on an implausible exhibition of how not to run the bases against the Czech Republic, somehow turning eleven hits into only one run, while the Czechs scored six on nine hits. For entertainment, there were two people in inflatable Jingjing suits, another case of mascot mismanagement. The Fuwa seemed to have Beijingers’ natural aversion to
Spielberg UFO touching down. Officially, it may have been a stylized flower. An attendant stopped me short of the security check. This was the staff entrance, he explained. The spectator entrance was on the opposite side—on the west, across the wind-whipped expanse of the complex. Or not across the wind-whipped complex. A trio of guards blocked the path. I should go back to the road and walk around the outside, they indicated. That was really inconvenient, I told them, in Mandarin. This was an
work. Then the CBA fired her. One of Korea’s major exports to China is drama; its various soap-opera series, dubbed into Mandarin, are usually running on several stations at once. Jodi ventured that Cho’s story sounded like one of those. Cho said she never watched the Korean shows. “All those TV dramas are always talking about how you love someone you’re not supposed to love, and then when you get together, the person is dying.” (This was, for someone who didn’t watch Korean soaps, a pretty
that Beijing was in the process of absorbing. Before meeting Ma, I had gone to see a Chinese Basketball Association game on the far side of town, in which the Beijing Ducks rallied to beat the Jilin Northeast Tigers. In Chinese, the Ducks are known as Capital Steel, for their sponsor; the word for “duck” is slang for “male prostitute.” The star for the Ducks was the hulking Inner Mongolian center Mengke Bateer, an NBA veteran with a championship ring from the San Antonio Spurs. (In a dispute over