Beijing

Ordos, Inner Mongolia (Getty)

Not content with banning lavish banquets and overseas junkets in its efforts to shore up declining moral standards within its own ranks, China’s communist party has moved to stop the building of any more monumental offices.

As the FT’s Simon Rabinovitch points out:

Whether the latest ban has a similarly negative impact on the property market will depend on how it is interpreted by state-owned companies. Chinese corporate executives have felt pressure to comply with Mr Xi’s earlier austerity policies even though government officials, not companies, were his targets.

Beijing has previously tried to stop local governments from building massive new offices, but only with limited success. Even in poorer parts of China, cities and villages have built monolithic offices, replicas of the US Capitol building and faux-European palaces.

But just how excessive are these party palaces? We’ve got a few of them here for your gawping pleasure. Read more

Evidently, Ai Weiwei is not one to let 81 days in jail keep him quiet. China’s most famous dissident has just released a heavy metal song with a video that re-imagines his time in detention. The FT’s Kathrin Hille describes it as “a chilling, five-minute rant filled with coarse language that is provocative even by Mr Ai’s standards”.

The artist is nothing if not versatile, working with a range of materials – here is the best of the rest.

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One of the most popular iPad apps in Beijing at present is China Air Pollution Index. The app is both addictive and disturbing. When I checked into a Beijing hotel recently, I found that – even from the 40th floor – I couldn’t see further than one block because of the grey smog enveloping the city. So I checked the numbers and discovered that the AQ level, which measures fine particulates that are especially dangerous, was 250 – about five times the level deemed safe.

Algeria, Pakistan, pollution, and Vogue magazine – the world desk’s recommended reads  Read more