Beijing Now

Photographer Nikolas Koenig and writer John Pomfret share their vision of today’s Beijing, a city undergoing an unprecedented period of rapid growth and economic development in this portfolio of the city.

Aug 3, 2009
  • Beijing Capital International Airport, Terminal 3, Chaoyang District
  • Door detail from Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Chaoyang District
  • China Central Television building, Chaoyang District
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Beijing Capital International Airport, Terminal 3, Chaoyang District
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Door detail from Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Chaoyang District
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China Central Television building, Chaoyang District

“Today, a cityscape in Beijing is like a scene right out of The Jetsons,” says John Pomfret, the author of Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China. “It’s surreally postmodern.” Some of its architecture would “even be shocking in New York City,” he adds, “not to mention Beijing, one of the oldest capitals in the world.”

In his book, Pomfret explores China’s evolution during the years he spent there as a student at Nanjing University in the early ’80s and over the next 20 years as a correspondent for the Associated Press and The Washington Post. The new economy, he says, has had a profound effect on Chinese lifestyle: “With greater access to wealth, everyone wants the latest fashions, goods for their homes, access to the latest films and technology.”

Visitors to China’s capital are likely to be awestruck by a country in flux. Pomfret himself is amazed by the transition. “History has been compressed for the generation that now runs China: people in their 40s and 50s. They were born into a country that believed in one thing—Chairman Mao. Now they are running a country that worships another—wealth.”


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