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I am sitting in a hotel room in Dalian, China. Through the open windows, I can hear the roar of a city of over three million—the low, constant murmur of traffic, the furious barking of dogs, the distant strains of half-audible music, and the occasional pop-pop-pop of fireworks. Through the darkness, I can see high rises piercing the night sky; one, with flashing, multi-colored rooftop lights, suggests a kind of frantic Christmas tree. Further off: the reflections of the lights of the Port of Dalian, glimmering a murky orange in the waters of the Yellow Sea.
China confounds: it is at once more startling and more familiar than I expected. It is a land of skyscrapers, seven-lane freeways, bullet trains, Apple Stores, and all the trappings of modernity. It is, in short, this:
But it is equally this: