Beijing: An Ancient Capital With New Ideas

Beijingers 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 official."

"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 are 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," Xu said.

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 touches.

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 Beijingers.

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 information center.

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 US$1.2 billion). 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)

In This Series

Beijing Congress Keeps Officials Working Hard

Beijing to Become Greener

"Green Office," a Way of Life

Beijing People More Aware of Laws

Local Congressional Meetings Open to Public

Villagers Choose Their Own Leader



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