Beijing citizens are seeing welcome shifts in thinking in this
ancient tradition-shackled capital which has made it a more desirable
place to live and work.
Not long ago, vice-mayor Yue Fuhong became the highest-ranking
Beijing official to go through a comprehensive job performance review
by delegates from the municipal people's congress.
The 200-seat conference hall where the review took place was packed
by an audience consisting of not just congress members and local
officials but also ordinary citizens alerted by the local media.
Retiree Ma Yufen, who came out of curiosity, said, "I just
want to see how the people's congress reviews a senior administrative
"In the past, ordinary citizens had no opportunity to attend
such a conference, but now we have the right and obligation to do
so," said Ma, now a housewife.
A more noticeable democratic process took place in rural Beijing,
where over 4,000 villages had just completed the election of village
committees in late June.
Unlike in the past, village heads and committee members were elected
directly by villagers instead of being designated by higher authorities.
The village-head election of Xiwengzhuang Village under Miyun County
reminded some Chinese of the last US presidential election -- in
three days, more than 3,000 villagers conducted three rounds of
elections, and the election results were surprising.
After the first round of voting, Ma Dongsheng, who received the
least votes, found out that three relatives of his opponent Yang
Derong helped to count ballots, when the election law provides an
provision to the effect that relatives of candidates in the election
should withdraw from voting counting.
Ma consequently raised the question before the village committee
and finally clinched the position of village head after defeating
his rival in another round of voting.
Even visitors to Beijing may get the impression that residents
of this city are more confident than ever before about their lifestyles,
which are growing increasingly colorful.
Every Sunday and on religious holidays, Xu Chunli, who is Catholic,
attends mass at a newly renovated Catholic church in the city's
downtown commercial center of Wangfujing. "Attending church
services is for me the most beautiful and happy time in my life,"
The St. Jausse Church, built in 1655, has become a popular scenic
spot of Beijing. During the day, various religious activities are
going on as normal, while outside on the square, tourists are strolling
and newlyweds are posing for pictures against the church's stunning
architecture, which blends the western classical style with oriental
Some changes, however, are not so easily detectable in the 3,000-year-old
city's gallop towards globalization.
On the city streets, recycling bins are grouped together for ordinary
citizens, whose awareness of environmental protection is stronger
than ever before.
To reduce "white pollution" by cutting back on use of
plastic bags has become popular among Beijing citizens.
For young people, living a "green" life has become quite
fashionable as napkins are replaced by handkerchiefs and public
transportation options are generally preferred.
Zhao Xiaochen, who volunteers for a non-government environmental
protection group, would like to see every Beijing citizen care about
the environment. "Just imagine how beautiful it would be if
you could look through the forest of tall buildings and see flocks
of birds and a crystal blue sky," said Zhao.
Residents in various communities are striving to "green"
their living place, and more "green" department stores
selling fresh vegetables and other unpolluted food have shown up
throughout the city.
Beijing may once have dreamed of establishing a self-supported
industrial system. But now, the municipal officials have replaced
the dream with a practical plan to build the city into a national
Northwest Beijing's district of Zhongguancun, known as China's
Silicon Valley, and the Scientific and Technological Development
Zone in the southeast have both attracted a large number of entrepreneurs
to invest in the hi-tech sector.
Nokia, one of the world's telecommunications technology giants,
has set up an international industrial park in Beijing at a total
investment of over 10 billion yuan (about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars)
. This research and development center will target not only the
Chinese customers but also the entire global market, according to
Jorma Ollila, chairman and CEO of Nokia.
Ollila and other visionary businessmen like him have high expectations
for Beijing, sharing the view of Siemens president Heinrich von
Pierer that the city is unparalleled in its current and future appeal.
(People's Daily 07/12/2001)