Beijing is a frenetic city. The people-watching opportunities here are endless: On any given day you are likely to run into migrant workers on their way to work, carrying their own tools over their shoulders and sporting yellow construction helmets; the newly moneyed clogging the streets with shiny new cars and bad fashion sense; and international expatriates, some equipped with impressive Chinese language skills, who are either in love with the city's cultural charm or lusting after its economic opportunities, or both. Yet despite the vast social, economic, and even cultural differences of the people who inhabit this sprawling city, each represents modern Beijing in some fundamental way. The migrant workers pretty much built "new Beijing," the newly moneyed represent the social mobility of the last few decades, and the expatriates are proof of Beijing's increasing attractiveness to the international community.

Of course the city would be nothing without its storied past. Beijing, which at times feels both newer and older than any place on the planet, prides itself on its rich cultural heritage. Unfortunately, that didn't stop urban planners from tearing down historical architecture to make way for shiny new skyscrapers. In this section, we'll take a look at where Beijing is today, where it has been, and where it's likely heading as it catapults its way into the 21st century.

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