"That is a sleeping dragon," Napoleon once said. "Let him sleep! If he wakes, he will shake the world." In 1803, the future French emperor recognized China's potential. Presiding over the greatest military and economic power of his day, Napoleon had an eye for opponents. Less than two centuries later, China's gross domestic product surpassed that of both Britain and France and continues to steadily climb. If he arrived in Beijing today, Napoleon would undoubtedly say, "I told you so."
To outsiders, Hong Kong can raise a lot of questions: "Is it part of China or not?" "Is it one island or two?" "Do they speak English or Mandarin? Or both?" And foreigners have a good reason to ask them. This territory, made of multiple islands, returned to China's possession in 1997 after more than a hundred years of British occupation. Upon its reunification with China, Hong Kong added certain stipulations that provide a unique degree of autonomy. For instance, the official currency remains the Hong Kong dollar (HKD); English and Chinese are the official languages; and the tiny nation has an independent judiciary system. In short, China and Hong Kong observe a "one country, two systems" policy that can have many foreigners scratching their heads. But don't question it. Just accept it and enjoy everything this territory has to offer.
What has made Shanghai one of the world's most populous cities? It's a modern-day commercial mecca. Shanghai celebrates its prosperity with monuments of industry like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Its rapid evolution keeps the skyline changing and the fashions fleeting, meaning that familiarity is one thing that you should kiss goodbye in Shanghai. If you can embrace the unexpected, the radically new and the immense crowds, you're ready to tackle China's most dynamic metropolis.
Tibet is a region in conflict. To the Chinese, Tibet is an autonomous region part of their country, but to Tibetans, they are (and hope to become again someday) an independent country. The details of this clash are subjective, depending on who you ask, but since China's invasion into Tibet in the 1950s, Tibet has never been the same. Since then, assimilation has been heavily resisted, the Dalai Lama – Tibet's spiritual and political leader – has gone into exile (and has remained so for about 50 years) and locals continue to cling tight to a culture that has been systematically fading away for decades. Some Tibetans have gone to extremes to get the world to notice, and people have been listening.
Best Places to Visit in Asia