Beijing's New Vision in New Century

Starting from a recent news conference, Liu Qi, mayor of Beijing, replaced his name card with a new one made of recycled paper with an English explanation on the other side.

Entering the new century, Beijing is becoming more modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly, and so is the mayor's name card. "Beijing will become a big garden with its air as fresh and pleasant as that in other major capital cities in the world in the coming five years," the major said.

Last month, more environmentally friendly buses fueled by liquefied petroleum gas appeared in Beijing's streets to replace jalopies. China's largest power station based on garbage incineration will soon be set up in the capital city.

Despite skyscrapers downtown, the government is keenly aware of the need to protect the "Siheyuan" or traditional Chinese-style rectangular courtyards with one-story houses on four sides. Now most of the antique "Siheyuan" is equipped with air-conditioners and modern toilets, which will make them habitable again in the new century.

Ending a century-old tradition, night soil collectors in the city have filled up the last lavatory by hand, another milestone in what has been dubbed the "toilet revolution" sweeping China.

The city, which embraced Marco Polo (1254-1324), an Italian traveler some 800 years ago, turns out to be a hub of vogue and communications, fraught with flaming posters and advertisements of world famous brands.

Nearly a decade ago, a Motorola-made pager fully reflected the status of its owner. Now, people are usually seen talking to their mobile phone while riding a bike.

The young kids, no longer satisfied with dull toys, are dexterous about playing "Age of Empire" on the Internet with counterparts at home and abroad. In the capital city, 25 percent of families have bought personal computers and 30 percent of citizens have access to the Internet.

The city government also invests heavily on urban construction such as viaducts, apartment buildings and theaters, and priority will be given to the booming Zhongguancun, dubbed as China's "silicon valley" in the northern part.

The extensive tide of construction will continue until the first half of the century to create a better environment for about 12 million citizens; hundreds of join ventures and multinational companies.

This year the city government plans to spend 43 billion yuan(US$5 billion)on more than 60 key urban construction projects, including a light rail system. So far, the Beijing was one of the largest and most prosperous cities during the middle ages. The resplendence will reappear in five years, said Liu Qi, and the city, now with its gross domestic products(GDP ) topping 3,000 U.S. dollars per capita, is fully prepared to hit the ambitious goal.

The municipal government now encourages citizens to learn how to speak English. Taxi drivers, policemen, and community workers are expected to communicate with foreigners with basic English in the near future. "The citizens should learn at least ABC English to make foreign visitors feel at home," said Liu Zhibin, taxi driver in his thirties, who has participated in a two-week English training program. "I will try my best to meet the demands of overseas customers," said Zhang Hongwei, a staff member of Beijing Handicrafts Store, a favorite place for overseas tourists.

Thinking of itself as the center of the world, Beijing, the former regal residence, used to arrogantly refuse visits of foreign envoys.

Nowadays, the citizens are quite willing to chat with foreign friends freely at bars and other social gatherings. About 30 drama and concert performances, given by domestic or overseas artists, are staged in the city each night.

Still, the people have become more educated about respecting other people's privacy, avoid speaking slang, and treat equally persons with different background.

Despite all these, Beijing still preserves some unchanged heritage. It is still a symmetric ancient city with an original and pleasant style, according to architects.

The people are still hospitable and passionate, the local citizens are talking about themselves.

(People's Daily 02/25/2001)

In This Series

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Beijing 2008 Olympic Budget Unveiled

Beijing Shows High-Tech Side to IOC Inspectors

Jiang Meets IOC Commission

Beijing Declares Five-Point Bidding Package

94.9% Residents Back Beijing's Olympic Bid

Beijing Pledges Best Games Ever



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