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A changing City

1 Reading and speaking. Read the extracts below from a travel guide to a famous city.
Can you guess which city it is?
  • smartly dressed people clutching mobile phones
  • road signs and advertising billboards are now in English
  • a majestic political and architectural marvel
  • a forest of constructions cranes and bulldozers
  • shopping malls and five-star hotels rise from the rubble
  • The city is changing so rapidly it makes you dizzy.
  • most youngsters disdain socialist sacrifice and are more interested in money, motorbikes, fashion, video games and rock music
  • bicycles and ox carts were the main form of transport a decade ago but both are now prohibited on the new freeways and toll roads.
  • It may be something of a showcase, but what capital city isn't?

2 Look at No. 2 to check the identity of the city. Were you surprised? What impressions did you previously have of this city?
3 Read the text taken from the Lonely planet guide to Beijing
Which of the following statements do/do not reflect the author's


  1. Beijing has he same attraction today that it has always had for the people in China.
  2. These days, people in Beijing have the same aspirations as people anywhere else.
  3. It's hard to keep up with the pace of change in modern Beijing.
  4. Beijing has been completely ruined by modernisation.
  5. Life in Beijing is more comfortable materially than it was in the 1980s.
  6. Beijing is an amazing place that all visitors will love.
4 Underline words and phrases in the text which show that the following sentences are true.

  1. Lots of people come to Beijing from the countryside to pursue their dreams.
  2. The capital is extremely attractive to these people.
  3. The differences between old and young people's attitudes are very obvious in Beijing.
  4. Old people are very enthusiastic about the Communist past.
  5. Many young people have no respect for Communist ideals.
  6. The builders are in a great hurry.
  7. Many new building are luxurious.
  8. Traditional homes have been replaced by big blocks of apartments.
  9. In the 1980s no-one expected to have such things as a TV set or a washing machine.
  10. A lot people now have these things.
  11. people usually wear western clothes now.
  12. Near Beijing there are some extremely impressive things to see.
5 What are the main changes that have taken place in Beijing since the 1980s? Comment on the following:

  • buildings
  • material goods
  • clothes
  • transport
  • attitudes
6 Discuss these questions in pairs.
  • Do you think the changes described are mainly positive or mainly negative?
  • Do they make you more or less interested in visiting Beijing?
  • Are any of these changes happening in your city/country?
  • Are there any other ways that globalisation has affected your city/country?
  • What influence lie behind these changes?
  • Have they had a good or bad effect on your city/country?

A changing City

For centuries, Beijing has been the promised land of China. Originally a walled bastion for emperors and officials, it remains a majestic political and architectural marvel. Today, people from the countryside still flock to the city in search of the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The government encourages them to go home, but the lure of the capital proves too enticing. Meanwhile, down the road by the Friendship Store, smartly dressed customers clutching mobile phones head for the nearest banquet or disco.
Perhaps nowhere else in China more than in Beijing is the generation gap more visible. Appalled by the current drive to 'modernise' many older people still wax euphoric about Chairman Mao and the years of sacrifice for the socialist revolution. But most youngsters disdain socialist sacrifice and are more interested - like youngsters everywhere - in money, motorbikes, fashion, video games and rock music (though not necessarily in that order).
Foreigners seem to enjoy Beijing since the city offers so much to see and do. Things have changed drastically in the last ten years or so. The Beijing of today is a forest of construction cranes, bulldozers and 24-hour work crews scrambling to build the new China. plush shopping malls and five-star hotels rise from the rubble. A good number of the road signs and advertising billboards are now in English. Whatever one says about Beijing today, it probably won't be true tomorrow. The city is changing so rapidly it makes you dizzy. Travellers of the 1980s remember Beijing as a city of narrow lanes with single-story homes built around courtyards. These have given way to the high-rise housing estates of the 1990s. TV sets and washing machines - unimaginable luxuries in the 1980s - are now commonplace. Whereas bicycles and ox carts were the main form of transport a decade ago, both are prohibited on the new freeways and toll roads that now encompass the city. Whereas not so long ago every one wore the Chairman Mao suit, now jeans and T-shirts, leather jackets and suits are the norm.
Whatever impression you come away with, Beijing is one of the most fascinating places in China. It may be something of a showcase, but what capital city isn't? Within its environs you will find some of China's most stunning sights - The Forbidden City, the Summer palace and the Great Wall, to name just a few. The city itself offers so much of interest that the main complaint of most visitors is that they simply run out of time before seeing it all.




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