One thing UK PM Gordon Brown, currently on a visit to Beijing, cannot fail to have noticed is the sheer amount of building work going on as the 2008 Olympic Games approach.
The Bird's Nest stadium is an icon of the new China
But as BBC Beijing correspondent James Reynolds finds as he follows the route the Olympic marathon will take, the authorities are not keen for the world to see the side effects of China's booming economy.
The Olympic marathon will start in Tiananmen Square. After they have run a few metres, the runners will turn right and head down the main avenue in Beijing.
The last time this road was on the world stage it had nothing to do with sport.
In 1989, the Communist Party sent tanks down this avenue to force out student protestors from Tiananmen Square. Today all we find here are loyal communists.
In the view of one young person I spoke to, "the Olympics will show the world that we are not backwards anymore".
After about seven miles (11km) the runners may come across Sun Ruonan.
Sun Ruonan's property has escaped the demolition ball
She refuses to leave her house, despite the authorities having knocked down every property on this section of the marathon route.
Her family's had this restaurant for more than 100 years.
"I want justice", she tells me. "The government can't use Olympics as an excuse to sweep us all away."
She is not alone. Just down the road more homes are being demolished.
Every year 50,000 houses in Beijing are knocked down to make way for new buildings
After about 18 miles, the runners may have a problem. They will notice it every time they breathe.
Pollution, a side effect of China's growth, may affect the Olympics
Beijing's big problem is the air. We have our own pollution detector. When we test it the air quality index is 61.60. That's not too bad.
But the real test will come in August when the marathon is run here. If the reading is over 100, the marathon may have to be postponed.
Those who make it through the pollution will have a dramatic finish.
Waiting at the end is China's Olympic Stadium - known as the Bird's Nest - possibly on loan from outer space.
This is the final piece of a project that China's been working on for 30 years - how to become a global superpower.