When I first set foot in China in 1994, reform leader Deng Xiaoping’s proclamation that "to get rich is glorious" had already ignited a genuine revolution, albeit a capitalist one. Development was proceeding at a feverish pace, with high-rise buildings sprouting like mushrooms.

Yet at the time of my first visit, Chinese architecture was merely playing catch-up with the West. Their new buildings were, for the most part, ham-fisted attempts at what they perceived to be classical Western design, much of it inspired by the one American city no wealthy Chinese tourist would think to miss: Las Vegas.

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