In 2002, when the eastern city of Hangzhou launched a 100-million-yuan “Westward Expansion of West Lake” project, there was reason for skepticism. One of China’s most famous historical sites, West Lake has been a fixture of poems, paintings, and calligraphy for hundreds of years. By the end of the last century, however, it was beset by a series of increasingly hard-to-ignore problems: water pollution, bad roads, poor maintenance, and encroachment by the fast-developing villages around its boundary.
That the Hangzhou city government would try to address these issues through a huge infrastructure program hardly came as a surprise. What did