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Despite its breathless march to super power status, Beijing, bordered by the Great Wall and with the Forbidden City at its heart, is a capital bound to its past. Like all great cities it’s a place of contradictions. It’s where three million taxi drivers tune in to swashbuckling period dramas on Beijing Traffic Radio. It’s also where communist party power is absolute yet the works of contemporary artists like Ai Weiwei are allowed to question the status quo. And despite the new highways and high-rises, Beijing remains home to miles and miles of hutong alleyways, grid-like residential architecture with its origins in Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty. In recent years, these lanes have given rise to the city’s most exciting new restaurants, bars and boutique hotels, a process of gentrification that just might help ensure their survival. Like belle epoque Paris or New York in the 1920s, Beijing is a city having its “moment”. It’s teetering on the brink of a global power shift (but still remarkably affordable), so make sure you can look back and say, “I was there”.