The great city of Beijing, capital of China from the ninth century, and given its form for five hundred years by the Ming Dynasty, was for a millennium one of the most extraordinary places on earth. At a time when London, Paris, or Rome had only several hundred thousand residents, Beijing held over a million. This book tells the history of this great city, and through it provides a highly engaging summary history of China. In the summer of 1997, President Jiang Zemin made a decision to destroy the old city. There was no announcement, no explanation given, nor any attempt made to justify his decision. Even those working as architects only became aware of what was happening when it was already too late. Expertly moving between historical analysis and reportage, Jasper Becker describes the impact of this systematic destruction, a unique telling of the history of Beijing that encapsulates both the grandeur of its creation and the tragedy of its current transformation.