It is one of the chillier days of the year in Beijing on the Saturday afternoon I visit Gao Xiaosong. I arrive early at “Linked Hybrid”, a sprawling, futuristic block whose eight apartment towers are linked by soaring sky bridges. A concierge eyes me warily as I mill around the lobby in my puffy coat, waiting for the appointed hour. I imagine he is watching me closely because I have told him the apartment number and assume he knows I’m meeting a celebrity. But when Gao greets me upstairs, I realise this was probably incorrect: the flat is barely furnished, the living room empty except for a single electric massage chair. With his pudgy figure, pockmarked cheeks and scraggly goatee, Gao himself is not exactly glamorous — but I am not fooled; the 49-year-old is firmly embedded in China’s entertainment elite. He’s been a popular singer-songwriter, a film director, and a Malcolm Gladwell-style public intellectual. These days, though, his role has taken him far from China. Jack Ma, found...

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