When I lived in Beijing in 1996, it was a horizontal city. If you wanted to go out for a burger, if you wanted to really treat yourself, you went to this place called the Jianguo Hotel. The architect had proudly described it as a perfect replica of a Holiday Inn that he had seen in Palo Alto, California.
When I was a student there in the mid-1990s, they had just created the weekend; depth and individuality were slowly returning after the austere, colorless low of the 1970s. When I returned to live in China from 2005 to 2013, the country was building everything anew.
Disclosure and transparency are the currency of the Internet, and they are at odds with authoritarianism.
The Beijing government avidly asserts its control over matters of reincarnation as a way of securing the loyalty and political complexion of influential Tibetan figures.
Beijing has a glut of charming and traditional or brash and luxurious places to stay.
Deng Xiaoping made a calculation. He bet on demographics. What he knew was that China had this enormous population of young, underemployed people, people who he could move from the farms to the coast and put them to work in factories, and that would be the lifeblood of China's economy.
In 1975, the collapse of a cascade of Chinese dams during a flood killed a hundred and seventy-one thousand people, but the event is rarely discussed, and the names of the victims are largely unrecorded today.
In my fifth year in Beijing, I moved into a one-story brick house beside the Confucius Temple, a seven-hundred-year-old shrine to China's most important philosopher.
Confucius, who was born in the sixth century B.C., traditionally had a stature in China akin to that of Socrates in the West.
Confucius - or Kongzi, which means Master Kong - was not born to power, but his idiosyncrasies and ideas made him the Zelig of the Chinese classics.
To Confucius, harmony was consensus, not conformity. It required loyal opposition.
There was a docudrama that was made, called 'The Death Of A Princess,' which was about a true story in Saudi Arabia. It was about a public execution for adultery. And when the movie was aired on British television, the Saudi government threatened to cut off oil exports and to cut off diplomatic relations.
Vladimir Putin was awarded an advanced degree by the St. Petersburg Mining Institute with the help of a dissertation that, as two Brookings researchers discovered, included sixteen stolen pages - and, remarkably, not a single set of quotation marks.
If the economy can only provide a diminishing political dividend, Chinese leaders will encourage their people to feel pride and vigor in other ways.
For my book, 'Age of Ambition,' I spent time documenting, among other things, the trials of young Chinese strivers who are bombarded by pressures unlike those that their parents faced.
In China, inaugurations are frequent affairs, though they have nothing to do with presidents. A news cycle rarely passes without some fanfare over the inaugural ride on a new subway line or the inaugural trip across an unusually large bridge.
When you live in Beijing for a while, you gain a finely tuned understanding of air.
To my surprise, the more I searched about Qi Xiangfu, the more I found of a life lived partly online. He once wrote a short memoir in which he described himself in the third person, with the formality usually reserved for China's most famous writers.
By tradition, Beijing is a city of walls, sheltering its intrigues and ambitions behind a series of concentric barriers from the Great Wall down to courtyard homes that draw sunlight only from the gardens at their core.
Seventy years after China emerged from the Second World War, the greatest threat facing the nation's leadership is not imperialism but skepticism.