China reaches into the heart of Europe

The previous time I lived in Berlin, in 2000, China had recently bought a building by the Spree River to use for a sprawling new embassy, and the staff would bully the clients of a women-only gym that had a lease on the top floor with verbal insults and by making them undergo intimidating security checks.

The bizarre practice was aimed, apparently, at forcing out the gym and securing use of the entire building for China. It worked. Today, the silver and mirror-clad embassy sparkles by the spinach-colored waters of the Spree, satellite dishes and antennas poking out on top.