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The price is right in Beijing

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BEIJING -- For a communist country, China sure has the capitalist ideology down pat. Everything here is for sale. Which isn’t to say you can buy whatever you want; rather, whatever you want, you have to buy.

Take the policy at one of the media hotels, for instance. The rooms are well-stocked with the toiletries and amenities you’d expect at any good hotel. Only, while most of them come gratis in the U.S., everything here is stamped with a price tag.

And in each room, there’s a laminated price list of everything in that room, from the lamps and pillows to the TV and the telephone. The message, clearly, is if you break it, you’ve bought it. And, just in case you miss the message, the list is titled ‘The Price List of Damage to Room Facilities.’

Oh, and the little coffee packets in the room? One per bed, per night. You’ll be charged if you use any more than that. Even the laundry bags are stamped in bold letters ‘NOT FOR FREE.’

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So much for collectivism, huh?

This isn’t my first trip to a People’s Republic. While on various news-gathering assignments, I’ve learned that the Cubans, Sandinista Nicaragua and even Chavez’s Venezuela could squeeze a dollar until George Washington bled. But China clearly is the gold medalist in cheap-skating.

Meanwhile, the translations all over Beijing are understandable enough, though sometimes a little stilted. Like the one above a sink that reads ‘No Drinking, Please Boiling It.’

It’s not just English that sometimes troubles the Chinese. At the Olympic Green, the area encompassing many of the Games venues, a sign pointing to the ‘Sunken Garden’ translates in Spanish as the ‘Jardin de Sunken.’ Which would be fine if the garden belonged to a guy named Sunken. (Upon further review, the translation -- which may or may not be correct -- is actually in French, not Spanish.)

Since the garden is, in fact, an area that’s slightly below ground level, the sign in Spanish would read el Jardin Hundido.

Updated at 10:23 p.m.: Upon further review, the ‘el Jardin sunken’ translation actually is in French, not Spanish.

-- Kevin Baxter


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