Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Building Blitzkrieg in Beijing
Great article over at on the frenzied building pace ramping up to the Beijing Olympics. Best description of the resources and the paradoxes of the Chinese government I've seen in print to date - especially as it relates to art and culture.

When I was there in Sept./Oct. the reality and the images I had the most difficulty reconciling were the rapidly decaying and disappearing hutong neighborhoods dating back to the Forbidden City, getting eaten up next to towering cranes and sleek, black glass, faced buildings. Where hard hats working on a new tower are side by side with men in bare feet and rags who are trying to mix rubble and sand to mend an old wall, which will probably be torn down within weeks in the name of progress.

When you mix capitalism with total Communist control, national pride, and an endless supply of free, exploitative labor - anything is truly possible...
The Olympic site itself no longer seemed like a lost cause. Touring it before, I thought there was no way the buildings would be finished and the vast dust bowl paved and tricked out with its planned parks, roads, and watercourses before the games began on August 8. It certainly will be—Herzog & de Meu­ron’s intoxicating “Bird’s Nest” stadium is now in punch list—but such sprinting has a cost. The New York Times reported in late January that six construction workers have died on Olympic sites in the last five years; the Times of London had previously put the number at ten. A long article on the official Beijing 2008 Web site was posted in early February, likely in response to all the bad press. The protesting-too-much begins with the headline, “Workers Enjoy Good Serv­ices at Olympic Venue Sites.”

The current transformation of Beijing also includes the wholesale razing of many of the old residential quarters in the central city, the residents themselves relocated to vast new tower blocks on the urban edge—deluxe hutongs in the sky—or simply made homeless without contingency. Several of the old neighborhoods along the tourist routes near the Forbidden City have been preserved in sterilized form. But there’s little opportunity here for outsider self-righteousness; the effects of such changes are not very different than they would be in any American city: low-rent buildings replaced by expensive ones through economic churn, people displaced, quaint neighborhoods locked in amber. Though having two invisible hands—the will of an all-powerful government plus the inexorable pressure of capital—seems to streamline the process.
I'm glad I got to witness some of it before it's all gone. And I'm even more grateful to have witnessed the very brink of wholesale urban change in Beijing and its culture.
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:00 AM  
0 Editorial Opinions:
Post a Comment
<< Home

Name: Broadsheet
About Me: The Editor in Chief
See my complete profile
Mainstream Media

World News: Darfur/Sudan

Left Handed Editors

Right Handed Editors

The Personals

Food and Wine

Literature, Academia, Arts, and Culture

Healthcare and Technology

Book Reviews

The Tabloids

Previous Post
Archived Editions

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)

Blog Baltimore

Subscribe with Bloglines

Blogarama - The Blog Directory


Save the Net

Blogtimore Hon

Powered by