Beijing seems much more polluted, and just as hot, as before. The metro has been thoroughly updated--turnstiles and ticket-machines reign where humans once did, to the point that it's quite hard to get on a train without exact change. In the tunnels, as the trains pass, they've somehow installed video advertisements that flash and flicker behind bars or something. Near Xiahe there are ads painted over the mouths of highway tunnels. On the trains conductors pass through selling glasses, socks, and other things no one really needs, or would bother looking at if not a captive audience. Beijing can hardly build shopping malls or billboards fast enough. The locals take to shopping like a novel sport. The notion that this is still a "communist" country is beyond laughable.