AT last Beijing appears to be taking positive steps to prepare for 1997.
The Chinese capital has just hosted its first ever charity ball - a type of event that is the very lifeblood of our socially driven town.
Local glitterati mingled with suave diplomats, while senior cadres sipped champagne and got acclimatised to hedonism.
Beijing tai-tais - a species that was in such danger of extinction that David Attenborough was said to be on their case - were evident on the ball committee.
There was even a mild boast that unlike in Hong Kong where the best we can muster for a top table guest is 'a retired politician' (we can only think they mean Chris Patten), they were actually able to lure Foreign Minister Qian Qichen to grace the historic occasion.
It must have had something to do with Qian's presence, but a rumour swept the ballroom that newly arrived British ambassador, Sir Len Appleyard, had done a 'Wiggham'.
But it appeared he was present, albeit for a brief while.
Sir Len provided the liveliest gossip of the evening - having arrived in Beijing with a new Rolls-Royce to replace the ancient Daimler that has hitherto been the ambassador's carriage.
But back to the ball. While they may have surpassed Hong Kong in the quality of the guest of honour, when it came to the raffle prizes they were nowhere in our class.
The grand prize offered two return airline tickets to London on economy - a class of travel that the ballgoers probably didn't even know existed.
At least the winner, in an egalitarian touch, would have been able to pass it on to the chauffeur or the gardener.
DESPITE being married to one of the wealthiest men in the world, Ann Getty (wife of Gordon Getty) is a woman of simple means.
On a brief visit to Hong Kong - to shop for Chinese artefacts to decorate one of her homes - she met up with jeweller Kai-Yin Lo to whom the acclaimed American socialite is both a long-standing friend and customer.
But despite the fact that her husband has bought her quite a collection of Kai-Yin's distinctive baubles, Ann wasn't wearing any jewellery while she was here.
It turned out she has taken up anthropology and is currently participating in excavations in Ethiopia and Turkey .
'I don't wear jewellery anymore because in anthropology you have to work with your hands', she said.
And Kai-Yin, who yesterday launched her fourth annual jewellery design competition, happily accepted the explanation.