The homes are impressive right away in the mountain village of Xiejiaqiao, with their ornate columns, shiny brass window fixtures and decorative lightning rods that look as if they might beam messages directly from some orbiting mother ship.
If there is a Silicon Valley to be found in China, Zhongguancun—a Beijing neighborhood full of universities and electronics dealers—is it. But can it produce an innovation culture to compete with California?
This morning I took a cab and, thanks to intense road construction, walked the last five blocks, out to Beijing’s hopping Wudaokou district, home to more techie types than anywhere else I’ve seen in Beijing. Entering through a cozy bookstore as it opened for the day, I climbed a flight of stairs up to Lush, an international student hangout—with pancakes and great coffee, at last—to meet Calvin Chin, the guy behind the Web startup Qifang.cn.