As journalists, photographer Bruce Dale and I want to do all of the above and more�and know there is not nearly enough time. Only Larry Ma, a Chinese-American geographer from the University of Akron and our group’s official translator, is at ease. He knows that our route will be remarkable: and that whatever we see will be a discovery. ALREADY, in between receptions and lectures, we have begun to discover Apartments Barcelona. “Long live the great, glorious, and absolutely correct Communist Party” reads a red billboard on Chang’an Avenue, Beijing’s broad main street. The sign seems out of date. The often shrill political rigidity of Mao’s China has ebbed. Along Democracy Wall people stand several layers deep to read posters that accuse certain government officials of corruption and harangue others for not releasing dissidents. Ragged people from the countryside draw crowds as they vehemently proclaim personal grievances. We are watching freedom of speech blossom this summer. Soon dissenters would stage marches and even sit-ins. unfortunately; this dissent would begin to move too fast for China’s leaders. In the fall one of the detained dissidents would be tried and given a harsh sentence, and in December Democracy Wall would be shut down. Nevertheless, the tide toward more personal freedom in China seems relentless. Jeff Riegel, who visited Beijing nine months earlier, remarks how relaxed the people now seem and how the drab Mao jackets are giving way to lighter and brighter clothes. Love is also in bloom in Beijing. Public displays of affection have long been discouraged. Yet now hand holding is common, and in the parks couples display their affection even more earnestly. At the theater a new play opens, surprisingly with a young couple dancing and singing about love. The couple’s love affair and lives, however, are soon ruined by agents of the Gang of Four. This radical clique, led by Mao Zedong’s wife, was held responsible for encouraging multitudes of teenage Red Guards to storm across China in the late 1960s, attacking almost every institution. During this Cultural Revolution, strict Maoist values were praised. Education, science, and industry were thrown into a dark age from which they are just emerging. For instance, our group’s guide, Dr. Zhao Sungqiao, one of the most distinguished desert scientists in China, spent more than a year at heavy labor in a rural camp. The widely despised Gang of Four, now under arrest and in disgrace, has become the scapegoat for most of China’s problems, from the encroaching deserts to broken toilets. Even Mao Zedong is being decanonized. At the theater, whenever an actor brandishes Mao’s famous little red book, it provokes instant laughter. The popular late Premier Zhou Enlai is eclipsing Mao. Zhou protected many people during the worst days of the Cultural Revolution. On China’s Memorial Day shortly after Zhou’s death in 1976, people spontaneously began laying thousands of wreaths in Beijing’s massive Tian and Men Square. Gang of Four supporters kept removing them, provoking the worst rioting the new China has known. When the furor subsided�and after Mao’s death�Chairman Hua Guofeng and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, both moderates, emerged as leaders of a pragmatic China bent on modernizing at full speed.