Previously the poor and the rich lived together in harmony in the same communities, and would occupy the same hutong, only yards from each other. Close to the houses of the wealthy were crude doors behind which lived the least well-off. In these huddles of houses people gathered from different circles and different social levels - those who made their living selling small goods alongside teachers from middle school. Living in the same area retained a lower profile for the rich, protected the poor from embarrassment, and preserved the dignity of those who owned nothing but a bed, said the Wen Wei Po article.
Even today, in some hutongs of Beijing this remains the pattern. High-ranking officials and those who living on government benefits occupy the same hutong. Children from different backgrounds go to the school closest to their home, as required by the government. They become good friends and their friendship lasts through a lifetime. The lives of the rich and poor in the same area are markedly different, but they don't feel uncomfortable. Now in some new communities, a mixture of rich and poor can also be found.
To separate the rich from the others in any city will always intensify social stresses. The aim of bringing rich and poor to live together has become a common target throughout the world. Only a mixed housing system can fortify the stability of society. Building of rich-only communities in Beijing should be slowed down.
(China.org.cn by Wu Jin and Hou Xiaoying, June 13, 2008)