Vanishing Act

picture-2 “Beijing’s rundown storefronts are concealed behind walls as China puts best face on for the Games,” Patricia Wen reports in the Boston Globe:

This should be a golden season at the Kaiqin Wu’s “Heavenly Peak” motorcycle shop. With car use severely restricted as part of the governments’ effort to limit pollution during the Olympics, sales of bikes – motorized or not – have been soaring in Beijing.

But business has gone steeply downhill at Heavenly Peak. Blame it on the wall.

Not that one, but the 8-foot brick wall Chinese authorities have erected down the south side of Luomashi Boulevard, obstructing a row of rundown storefronts, including Wu’s, and the alleyway “huttong” housing of the neighborhood. Walls like it have been built in many parts of the bustling city, as some 500,000 foreigners have come to town for the Games – part of the government’s pursuit of perfection, albeit sometimes a Potemkin perfection, in the way the ancient capital presents itself to the world.

“It is all because of the Olympics,” said Wu, 33, standing on the sidewalk between the wall and her store. “They wanted to make the street look prettier.”

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