DER SPIEGEL correspondent Bernhard Zand:
Deep in Siberia, at the same latitude as Hamburg, China begins. It only comes to an end some 4,000 kilometers away, on the beaches of the tropical island Hainan. Both are places of great beauty.
In the north, the Heilongjiang, the Black Dragon river, winds silently eastward. It marks the border to Russia, where it is known as the Amur. The pine forests of the Taiga stretch out behind it.
In the south, the surf of the South China Sea gently rolls into Hainan’s Yalong Bay. Plane and palm trees line the coast and children frolic on the beach. Hainan is often called “the Hawaii of China.”
In between lies a country about the size of the United States, but with four times as many people – twice as many as in Europe, more than in Africa.
Before leaving mainland China for Hong Kong, Zand once again travels the vast country.
He wants to understand how Xi Jinping has shaped China in the past eight years. Eight years, in which Zand had been living in China, eight years that Xi Jinping has been president.