English railway engineers came across this small fishing village in the 1890s. Not long after, wealthy Chinese and foreign diplomats were visiting in droves. After Mao Zedong came to power, the new rulers developed a taste for sea air. Today the seaside retreat has an interesting mix of beach kitsch and political posturing, with Communist party members past and present owning villas here. Beidaihe is terrifyingly crowded during the summer and practically empty the rest of the year.