China is by no means a utopia. Take the choking air pollution and contaminated drinking water, not to mention the government's human rights abuses and attacks on freedom of speech.
But this country with an exploding population is also doing a lot right, and on a recent trip to visit my daughter who's studying Mandarin I noticed many positive aspects as I explored three cities: Beijing, the country's capital; Chengdu in Sichuan province; and Guilin, in the southern province of Guangxi.

In the sticky heat of Beijing's summer, I kept cool drinking fresh fruit smoothies, boba tea, and sparkling fruit juices — all sold for about $2 each from tiny stalls lining streets.
In San Francisco, I could never drink this much liquid on an urban stroll. I would certainly explode before finding a public restroom.
In Beijing, it's not an issue. Bathrooms are everywhere, seemingly on every block, even in the more residential narrow alleyways known as hutongs.
The restrooms were often no-frills, and in one case I found myself squatting over a tiled trench running the length of the room, offering the opportunity for up to 10 people to go pee. Toilet paper was almost non-existent and when available, it was issued via a single dispenser near the bathroom's main door.
But while the bathrooms were different than Western toilets, they were always sparkling clean.
The city of San Francisco, where public restrooms are scarce and defecation on sidewalks common,  could learn something from Beijing. As I explored this city, as well as Chengdu and Guilin I noticed many other things that struck me as good ideas for improving city life. Take a look in the gallery above.