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The luxurious shopping streets of Beijing's CBD.

The luxurious shopping streets of Beijing's CBD. 

The CBD was built to be a place 'where you can see and feel the world changing.'

Rapid change is visible in the area's modern architecture and urban population. By night, the China World Trade Center towers glow red - in both Chinese and English. The colossal screen in the Place illuminates the streets. Even the office buildings blaze with colorful lights in the evening.

'People aspire to the material things in life,' one CBD Administrative Committee official recently said.

And they can find it easily in the CBD. Chanel, Fendi, and Cartier flagship stores offer luxury items. The Xintiandi underground parking lot is packed with row upon row of slick black Volkswagen and Lexus cars. Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, the largest store from Taiwan, boasts 90 international brands.

In Shin Kong's basement food court, visitors can snack on everything from cubed mango over shaved ice to bang bang chicken bathed in Sichuan chili paste. Even at 9:30 in the evening, customers roam the upper levels for the clothes, jewelry, and shoes.

Still, others say the CBD remains convenient for laobaixing, or the regular people. Luan Ge, 74, has lived near the BTV tower for 25 years. He does not want to leave. 'I love it here. It's so convenient,' he said.

Luan lives there with his wife. The elderly couple likes to shop at Wal-Mart in particular.

The world's most famous chain store, topping the Fortune 500, covers 10,000 sq m in the CBD. It is one company that jumped at the chance to provide upscale products to the white-collar professionals living and working in the area.

'The CBD has great business potential. If we didn't come, others would replace us,' Jonathan Dong, PR director of Wal-Mart (China) Investment Co Ltd, has said in a written statement.

(China Daily August 7, 2008)

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