Beijing: An Eastern City with Western Problems
November 19, 2008
Beijing was at the top of everyone’s attention in late summer 2008, but the Olympics came and went and the city continues to hum along. Like many other places in China, growth is relatively unchecked, in spite of a faltering economy. The international business community has been looking toward Beijing for help as the world’s markets collapse, and Beijing is often the first stop in China for major multinational brands. The luxury market is booming in the city, and unlike other cities in China there’s a large population in Beijing capable of patronizing the fancy stores. But in order to accomodate this growth, the old hutongs have been bulldozed and people have been relocated to other, further out parts of the city. The signs of McDonalds and Louis Vitton glow just steps away from the lights festooning the roofpeaks of the Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square, ever the target of protestors and would-be terrorists, is a high-security DisneyLand of Chairman Mao propaganda. The city’s subways are protected by the world’s only complete and continuous public transportation bag check x-ray system and the demand for fast and plentiful automobile transportation has made bicycle and foot travel in the city difficult and dangerous. The city isn’t done growing, of course. It probably won’t be until the desert swallows it up.