No capital in the world can match the glorious extremity of contradictions that define Beijing.
Here is an ancient city: climb the crumbling Great Wall, study imperial sacrificial rites at the Temple of Heaven or wander the painted long corridor of the Summer Palace.
Here is an ultra-modern city: home to a high-tech, intellectually savvy, politically sophisticated urban elite that flock to the nation’s cultural and artistic fulcrum from all four corners of the Middle Kingdom.
Here is a Communist base, almost the last surviving bastion of Marxist-Leninism on the planet: Standing on the gates to the Forbidden City on October 1, 1949, Comrade Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic from here.
Here too is the runaway engine of global capitalism, where up-and-coming nouveaux-riche chew through fusion menus at avant-garde restaurants, sport designer labels and fancy red sports cars.
Here residents reside in traditional hutong alleyways and mega high-rise complexes. They shop for stinky tofu in dusty cornershops and fruit pizza in the world’s largest mall. They ride clanky Flying Pigeons and drive Japanese SUVs. Official temples and churches abound here, an officially atheist city.
Here ancient is modern, East is West, yin is yang, insular is cosmopolitan: Screened off from the world by the powerful Great Firewall of China, this Olympic metropolis is capital of this century’s new global superpower. Love it or hate it. Just don’t try to explain it.