The Truth About Peking Duck and Other Beijing Reflections

Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, continues his guest-blogging for the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog with a trip to Beijing:

One thing that struck me about the Olympic architecture is that, unlike the Great Wall or the Forbidden City, they were not built to exclude, but rather to embrace (and impress) the rest of the world. It is an interesting and positive new twist on China’s obsession with grand architecture. Rather than us commoners and foreigners being forbidden, we’re all invited.

This is the New China, which at least in the major cities has all the trappings of a modern, developed, capitalist country. But of course, it isn’t new at all; this is still the China of Chairman Mao, at least technically. The current government is the direct lineal descendant of Mao’s rule. No official retraction of policy has occurred. Indeed, one young Chinese professional, without a trace of irony, asked me to share my impressions about visiting a communist country. As he said this, we drove by an Armani store.

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