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Open and closed

China is more open than ever, but remains inscrutable to the west-and to itself. Aggression over Taiwan is only the most visible tension arising from chaotic growth

By John Gittings   April 1996

When I first visited China while Mao Zedong was still alive, the Peking Hotel had the only automatic sliding doors in the country. Beyond the hotel gate and the security guards, small groups of Chinese people gaped at the foreigners entering and leaving through the automatic doors. They wore cheap Mao suits and carried small cloth satchels with the characters “Serve the People” stencilled on the flap. They were from the provinces, taking a quick peek at the capital while changing trains; others came on sponsored trips for model workers or peasants.

When one of us appeared on the pavement…

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