Beijing’s modern architecture, including the China Central Television building, is one of the city’s hallmarks. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Beijing’s skyline of apartment blocks stretches to the horizon. Real estate prices in the Chinese capital are among the highest in the world. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Beijingers call it “Big Short Pants,” and it is hard to miss. The gleaming glass tower, home to China Central Television, is one of many modern buildings dominating the capital city’s ever-expanding skyline. By the looks of things, the description of the tower is pretty accurate. So is the term “supercity,” which city officials are planning to call Beijing as it merges with nearby Tianjin. The population will exceed 130 million.

Beijing is known for the Forbidden City, ancient temples, Olympic stadiums and unforgiving pollution. It also has some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Residents have begun moving farther and farther out to find affordable housing, even if it means brutal commute times or overcrowded subway rides.

The city is becoming a hub for technology and is trying to shed its image as a bureaucratic banality. (Shanghai has always been seen as the hipper, more cosmopolitan Chinese city.) Among Beijing’s endless cement apartment towers are testaments of Beijingers’ love for late nights, brightly lit restaurants and line dancing. The Beijing sense of humor is also on display, an essential quality to make it day by day in China’s future supercity.


Diners, families and tourists mingle along Beijing’s famous “Ghost Street” in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A couple enjoy one another’s company as a karaoke crooner sings inside a Beijing restaurant in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A cook grabs a quick meal outside one of Beijing’s restaurants in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

An outdoor escalator in the Chaoyang district of Beijing. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Development is evident throughout Beijing with new towers going up. A state security guard mans a gate at a media center in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A truck driver hauls signs advertising Intel microchips ready for delivery in May. The tech business has boomed in Beijing. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A woman takes a rest in a square in May near Beijing’s Drum Tower. The sheer scale of the city and population can be exhausting. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Commuters make their way across a pedestrian bridge at the end of the day. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Line-dancing clubs are hugely popular throughout China. A group of women do their routine in front of the ancient Bell Tower in the old district of Beijing in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Beijing’s explosive urban growth has earned the city a reputation for brutal smog and pollution. A man drinks water during a smoggy morning at Tiananmen Square in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

China has recently relaxed its “one-child” policy that was used to control a burgeoning population. A couple poses for a wedding photo in an old quarter of Beijing in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Beijing’s growth is accelerating with the city planning to merge with Tianjin to form a 130 million-population “supercity.” (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

More In Sight”

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How China is preparing to build the world’s largest ‘supercity’

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