After a week here, I think I have figured out what you need to fit in with the two types of Beijing elites (old school and new economy):
1) Chairman Mao horn-rimmed monster-sized eyeglasses--no matter what your age
2) A VW Passat (or for the poorer party member, a motorcycle with a little cab over the back seat; photos to follow when I get home).
3) One word: brylcreem
1) Prada, Gucci, Marc Jacobs whatever--as long as it's designer
2) Audi or BMW
3) Cup of starbucks in your hand
I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying the Chairman Mao eyeglasses. It rocks. There is nothing like seeing a thirty year old man wearing these huge I-Wanna-Be-Jiang-Zhemin spectacles. I am considering bringing the look stateside. Who's with me?!!! Anyone? Anyone? Hellooo?
The young and rich Beijingers are another story. It's quite an epiphany for an American to look around The People's Republic of China, which has been Communist for decades, and think to yourself, "Man, I wish I could afford what she's wearing." I'm not kidding. Rich people here are RICH. Most of them young, most related to electronics and video game revenues. There are Chinese people who could buy and sell me, which I have to confess I did not expect in the least.
This state of constant surprise has been the overriding theme of my trip to Beijing: expect the unexpected, lose the preconceived notions, relinquish the control, embrace the city for what it is, and truly internalize what this country of more than a billion souls is achieving right before our eyes--and then take a deep breath and imagine what they could achieve if the full power of their intellectuals and artists and entrepreneurs and thinkers could be unleashed.
You don't need Chairman Mao glasses to see a superpower in the making.