In the runup to Chicago -- and don't forget, if you're coming to Chicago, to RSVP for the Tuesday night students' reception -- I am repeatedly distracted by interesting articles: this one, a New Republic book review, focuses on China's political culture in the run-up to the Olympics. It is only tangentially related to planning, in that the first book discussed focuses on the modernization of Beijing and the resulting changes in its urban fabric. But Andrew Nathan is a major figure in his field (not for nothing was he a coeditor of this book) and if you are not terribly familiar with Chinese politics, this could be a very useful introduction to how the state currently works, and how the central government can absorb blows such as the Tiananmen protests, the criticisms over Tibet, and the continuing efforts of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, and yet keep on going.
(The other reason why I was so quickly distracted is that of the three authors of Beijing: From Imperial Capital to Olympic City, one was my undergraduate advisor and chief academic mentor, and another taught me about the Fifth Generation Chinese filmmakers and is responsible for my continued love of red bean cakes. So reading Andrew Nathan's praise for their book leaves me tickled pink.)