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30 years on - nation no longer a forbidden place for foreigners
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At the foot of the 700-year-old Drum Tower in central Beijing, a rock music bar named Mao Livehouse is packed with some 100 young people swinging and singing in a loud chorus, in English:

"Hey Jude, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better..."

Despite the December chill outside, the bar has a great buzz as local bands play The Beatles songs non stop.

Today, China is a hot destination for foreign tourists. [File photo: Xinhua]

"We are here tonight to pay tribute to The Beatles and John Lennon," says 22-year-old Ma Xiaomeng, a Beatles fan for eight years. "I can sing almost every song of theirs. You name it."

Few would be surprised at such a scene of celebrating western pop music on December 6, 2008, in Beijing. The 15-million-people metropolis has just proudly hosted the Summer Olympics, and is ranked the 12th out of 60 most globalized cities in this year's Global Cities Index from the U.S. Foreign Policy magazine.

But this is so very different from what a visitor would have seen in Beijing 30 years ago.

Once regarded as a self-locked "Middle Kingdom," in those years China banned all aspects of "rotten capitalist lifestyle" such as The Beatles. On December 9, 1980, the day after the shocking murder of John Lennon in New York, China's leading national newspaper People's Daily mentioned not one word of the news.

The concert in Mao Livehouse was the brainchild of bbs.beatles.cn, a Chinese-language online forum dedicated to The Beatles. On www.douban.com, the Chinese version of Facebook, about 4,000 people register as Beatles fans to discuss songs, exchange CDs, or set up bands.

"Listening to The Beatles opens the door of music for me. I like it, so I do it," Ma Xiaomeng says, as if he takes all these things for granted.

What he may not have realized is that the door actually began to open when China made an historic decision 30 years ago to open a door even bigger - the one to the world.

China on Thursday commemorated the 30th anniversary of a landmark meeting of the Communist Party of China, which decided to open up the country and reform its nearly collapsed economy, struggling in the wake of the disastrous cultural revolution (1966-1976).

The decision, masterminded by then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, eventually turned the once poverty-stricken country into one of the world's largest economies. The lives of about 20 percent of humanity have been forever changed.

The long and winding road

Retired engineer Fu Tian still remembers how he felt when he visited Canada for the first time in 1981.

"Everything I saw (in Canada) was completely different from home. The outside world was so alien to me because we had locked ourselves in for such a long time," says Fu.

Although by then China had already resumed its membership in the United Nations and had forged diplomatic relations with world powers including the United States and Britain, "to ordinary Chinese like me, we and the foreigners were living in two worlds on parallel lines -- we had never met each other," he says.

A blogger on China's popular portal Sina.com also describes vividly how Beijingers demonstrated their "hospitality" to two foreigners in 1980.

"I saw tens of thousands of people converging at the streetside and peering into someone in the middle. I pushed into the crowd and found they were actually two foreigners with blue eyes and golden hair.

"'How can a man be like this?' I heard someone commenting on the man with a ponytail hairdo," says the blogger using pseudonym "Star Badminton Team".

The blogger also says he/she was puzzled for many years by his/her mother's comment: "Foreigners are all evil."

"I always wonder why they are evil and how evil they can be. Many years later, only after I had some real contact with foreigners did I realize most of the people in the world are just as kind as us," the blogger says.

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