The entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing. (Carlos Barria / Courtesy Reuters)

Days after the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress, a weeklong event that marks a once-in-a-decade turnover of power, the center of the nation's capital is silent. Next to the Great Hall of People, where the congress took place, Tiananmen Square is still sealed off. Its more than 4700,000-square-foot vastness is empty, save for a dozen police patrolling in the rain. The giant portrait of Mao on the rostrum overlooking the north side of the square is soaked, as is the giant bouquet opposite his scowl.

On the northwestern

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