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The eastern Shandong port city of QINGDAO (青岛, qīngdăo) sprang to prominence in 1897, when Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm, wanting to extend his country’s sphere of influence in the East, annexed the city after two German missionaries were murdered here during the Boxer Rebellion. Following the Kaiser’s hysterical speech (which coined the phrase “Yellow Peril”), the feeble Manchu court ceded the territory for 99 years, along with the right to build the Shandong rail lines. Qingdao made an ideal deep-water base for the German navy, and while they were here they established a brewery producing the now world-famous Tsingtao Beer (Tsingtao is the old transliteration of Qingdao). However, the city was forcibly taken from Germany in 1914 by the Japanese and later gifted to Japan at the Treaty of Versailles, an event that led to nationwide demonstrations – the beginning of the May Fourth Movement. Qingdao was returned to China in 1922.

Modern Qingdao is still a very important port, China’s fourth-largest, but the old town, which once was a museum piece of red-roofed Bavarian architecture, is today being run down and neglected as a huge, modern industrial city cut by multilane highways sprouts 5km to the east; pretty much the only reason to head this way is for the year-round ferry connections to South Korea and Japan. While you’re here, though, you can check out some decent white-sand beaches dotted along the shoreline – indeed, the city was chosen to host the sailing events of the 2008 Olympics – and a worthwhile day-trip east to Lao Shan, one of China’s most famous peaks.

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