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For Beijing residents, big diplomatic events are like birthday parties for children. We look forward to them eagerly – because along with the landing of presidents and potentates comes a clearing of the skies, a guaranteed week of perfect crystalline blueness. The Belt and Road Forum was welcomed by locals not so much for the exciting possibilities it offers for the extension of Chinese investment into Central Asian infrastructure, as for the hopes of an ecstatic spring week.

Those hopes were more than fulfilled. Along with the posters promising friendship, win-win cooperation and mutual benefit (accompanied by random security checks on foreigners’ papers), the Beijing sky cleared of even a particle of pollution. Children danced and sang, asthmatic old folk went jogging, and moods brightened. As ever, when the skies are clear, the hills were visible in the distance; a reminder of Beijing’s remarkably beautiful positioning between mountain ranges, something usually shrouded in the smog of modernity.

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China Report
Issue 49

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