The site for the new town is about an hour north of Beijing, very close to the mountains and the Great Wall. We drive there in a cavalcade of black Audis led by the government minister who commissioned the project. All government cars are in fact black, and many car owners in Beijing also opt for a black car. It is a practice which appears like a form of cultural camouflage, but actually it is a kind of insurance policy – no one would dare to steal anything that looks like a government car. The difference, though, between our black Audi at the back of the cavalcade and the minister’s at the front is that our car doesn’t have a blue flashing light and siren, that scatter pedestrians and cars whenever the road is blocked. We drive up to the site behind...

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