15 SEPTEMBER 1950, Page 3

A friend who was in Peking last_ month reports no

material change in its atmosphere of timeless and assured urbanity. He travelled there by rail and noted that all trains were running to schedule, orderly queues replaced the usual jostling crowds at the railway stations, there was no tipping and the bridges demolished by the Nationalists had been efficiently repaired. The lovely Pei Hai Lake on the way to the Summer Palace had been dr4dged after a century of silting, and rumours that the trees around the Temple of Heaven (which the Chinese hold to be the centre of the earth) had been cut down to make room for an air-strip proved unfounded. Practically the only cars to be seen are " Moscovas," a Russian imitation of a cheap American model, and there is a great shortage of rickshaws and pedicabs. The shop-keepers anfl businessmen are sorely oppressed by taxation, but the general atmosphere is not gloomy and in the countryside the land reforms allow of individual owner- ship on a scale never envisaged in orthodox Communist dogma. The food in the good restaurants is not particularly expensive and as delicious as ever : which is saying a good deal.