Evan Osnos, a China-based Staff Writer for The New Yorker has just written a wonderful article about Beijing for the magazine Conde Nast Traveler called City of Dreams. Here's a a bit of a teaser for you:
An outsider might imagine that the novel that captures China's current gilded-age mood would be set in Shanghai, the financial capital elbowing its way into competition with New York and London, or Shenzhen, the megalopolis built on marshland. But Shanghai was punished by the Communist party for the city's history of cosmopolitanism, and is still shaking off the effects of that cultural paralysis. Shenzhen, for its part, is a transient place that sanctifies commerce, not ideas.
Beijing, by contrast, stands alone in China as simultaneously the center of authority and a hotbed of creative thinking. It is home to thousands of apparatchiks in the machinery of the Communist party, as well as to many of the nation's most provocative artists, writers, activists, and filmmakers. (Some are legal; others are underground.) For the last six years, I've watched powerful, often subversive, ideas bubble up in conversations in cafés and offices and at dinner tables, before spilling out across China. These days, Beijing's brilliantly irascible rabble spans the political spectrum: daring environmental lawyers who have pioneered ways to haul powerful polluting factories into court; artists whose quarrels with the police in the name of freedom go far beyond the bounds of performance art; and self-styled young patriots who are equally comfortable criticizing America one day and pivoting to denounce their own corrupt local officials the next. Beijing is bursting with explosive energy, and it's not clear yet which voices will prevail. Arguably the most interesting city in the world, it is a magnet for China's oddballs and visionaries and provocateurs.
Evan is a great writer, so click on over and read the whole thing. You won't be disappointed.