Beijing's long-distance train station was huge. A massive pavilion was outside, and thousands of people with suitcases and backpacks were milling about. There was barely room to walk. Three men in camouflage uniforms stood guard at the edge of the crowd, assault rifles pointed downward, index fingers resting next to the triggers. Behind them was a van with blackened windows. Troublemakers wouldn't last long here.
I was confused. Our plane was only a few thousand feet above one of the world's largest cities, yet I barely saw any lights. Beijing's international airport is located far from downtown, but I still was expecting the city to look brighter from above. As we neared the ground, a thick haze blanketed us. Visibility was less than half a mile in all directions.