Beijing abandons Mao's dream of workers' paradise

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China is abandoning Chairman Mao's dream to make Beijing a workers' paradise, rebuilding it under the cover of a "green" Olympics as a capital for its 21st century empire.

In a display of the city's determination to improve its air quality, officials this week vaunted the closure and relocation to the coast of its biggest polluter, the smoke-stacked mini-state of Capital Steel.

Three of its blast furnaces stand blackened and idle, along with two of its three steel mills.

A fourth furnace will shut on Sunday, when for the sake of the Olympics industrial production will be reduced across five provinces, and cars in the city restricted to alternate days.

But the shutdown, a culmination of years of work that has seen hundreds of chemical and other factories close, is also part of a drive to rediscover the city's original purpose: to be the political, financial and cultural heart of the Chinese world.

When Mao Tse-tung founded the People's Republic in 1949, he replaced many of the Ming and Qing dynasty temples, palaces and old houses with factories. He told architects he wanted to "look out from Tiananmen gate and see smokestacks".

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