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Seven Headaches of Beijing Citizens
Concerning amazing changes in Beijing over the past decades, ordinary Beijing citizens have the deepest touching feeling. However, while their housing is getting bigger, their salaries are rising higher and their means of communication is becoming increasingly convenient, they also have troubles hidden behind their bright smiles. Is it true for Beijingers in the 21st century that the better their lives become, the more “troubles” they have to live with?

Headache One: The Trouble of Keeping Fit

Wondering around the shopping centers in Beijing, one will find easily that the sizes of beautiful clothes are turning smaller and smaller with less and less people being able to fit in. Xiao Li, 24, always worries about her size for pretty clothes and it pushes her to make up mind to get rid of her extra weight. However, not before long, when she sees chocolates and crackers, she has to give up her dieting plan.

In order to lose weight, Xiao Li never let anything connected with her target, from food to clothing and bodybuilding equipment, escape from her attention. She has a dream: once she get her body re-shaped, she will become a beautiful lady.

In fact, Xiao Li is just one of the expanding group in Beijing. Rich, colorful, delicious dishes and nice snacks let many people fall into the line of over-weighted before they know it. Very often, they catch nice food in one hand, and their ambitious weight-losing plan in the other hand. This phenomenon helps the booming of fitting industry in Beijing; the number of geomagnetisms, slim products and health facilities are increasing rapidly, accompanying the rise of fat people.

According to statistics regarding Beijing’s health situation over the past 10 years issued by the Beijing Statistic Bureau, the average weight of the citizens is up 7.6 kilograms and the health status has risen 14 percent.

The improvement of living quality let Beijingers bid farewell to yellow face and slim figure while they are getting stronger and fatter.

Headache Two: No Parking Place

If Mr. Du is put into the context of 20 years ago, he no doubt belonged to “those who get quick rich.” About one month ago, Du accomplished his second dream by buying a Bora following the purchase of his own house last year. Watching his colleagues suffering in the crowded buses on their way to work, he cannot help saying to himself, “It is so nice to have a car.”

However, Du has his new trouble. The difficulty to find a parking place is far beyond his imagination, despite the news report on TV about newly developed air-parking lot, roof parking place and underground parking spaces open to the public. The increase of parking lots can never match the growing number of private cars.

The situation for Zhang, who works in a website, is even worse. Parking is his biggest headache whenever he goes. Once he was fined three times within a week for illegal parking, which scared him so much that he now prefers hiring a taxi rather than driving his own car when he has to go out for business.

By now, the total number of automobile in Beijing has reached 1.67 million and is still growing. Qie Xiaogang, a salesman in a car shop in the Asian Games Village area, said, dating back 13 years ago, the buyers were mostly from state-owned working units or collective sector; the amount of sales could not be compared with that of today. Yet now the majority of his customers are individual buyers.

Visiting any residential area, the first sight would be the cars parked around the buildings, as many old neighborhoods are not equipped with parking places.

Nevertheless, there are still many peoples bravely chasing the headache willingly.

Headache Three: Difficult to Be a Housewife

Mrs. Wang, a 65-year-old retiree, is not as free as expected. In her own words, she is even busier than she was at work 10 years ago. Everyday, she gets up early and dances Yangge with a group of elderly women till 10 a.m. After supper, she will practice gym exercise. Wang is happy all day long except the small trouble that she has no idea about what to cook.

Though her children have all grown up and married, they still eat together with Wang because they are busy with their work and have no time to cook. Several years earlier, Wang did not need think twice when she cooked, several dishes plus rice or noodles could always satisfy the families. But recently Wang find her dishes are not so welcomed. The spoiled children and her husband are becoming more and more fastidious though she now cooks a lot more dishes than before.

The government-sponsored vegetable project has turned a great success. Statistics show there are now over 20,000 vegetable farms in Beijing, ranking No. 1 nationwide. Furthermore, Beijing’s vegetable production accounts for 30 percent of the country’s total, both in quantity and varieties. Meanwhile, an easy supply program has been carried out to enable the fresh vegetables to reach the markets quickly. When the program is finished next year, the vegetable supply in Beijing will be even better. By then, Wang and others have to create more new dishes for their families.

Headache Four: Getting Lost Easily

Tax driver Zhang Baoguo used to boast before relatives and friends that he was a walking map of Beijing. Having been driving a taxi for almost 10 years, there was almost no street or lane in Beijing that he did not know.

However, the so-called Walking Map Zhang begins to feel embarrassed for his brag words. Just several months ago, he got lost in Dengshikou where he had passed at least 100 times. Zhang said: “You don’t knows how fast the roads in Beijing change. It is not at all exaggerating to say one-day one new road. Not only me, many other taxi drivers also get lost sometimes.”

It is true that Beijing keeps building one road one day, rebuilding one road three days. Although the electronic map in Beijing Traffic Bureau is being updated daily, it still misses some information. So far there is no precise number of the new roads and overpasses built in the past 13 years. No wonder even taxi drivers sometimes find themselves lost in some downtown area.

Recently, the Beijing municipal government completed a road reconstruction project in Haidian and southern districts of Beijing and opened the fourth ring road and parts of the fifth and sixth ring roads. The opening of the new roads have reduced the traffic pressure to a large degree and made the traffic twice faster than before.

Headache Five: Increasing Electronic Communication and Less Personal Contact

“Give me a call, please.” “Sent me short messages if you miss me.” “Keep in touch by e-mail.” Such kind of popular words storms the daily conversations of Beijing citizens. Not surprisingly, they are also heard in the conversations of children to their parents.

Even Xiao Zhao himself cannot remember how long it has been since his last visit to his parents. He only remembers his father wore a thick cloth last time when he returned home. Time flies and another winter is already here, but Xiao Zhao still cannot grab time to go home again.

When inquired by parents, Zhao always has many reasons to explain. In his words, “Nothing special happens at home and I phone you many times.” It is true that he has bought a cell phone to his parents, so that they can call him or send short messages whenever they like. In addition, he often sends home food and drinks by express delivery. If there is any additional need, his parents can also send him an e-mail.

Zhao is telling the truth. He regards himself as a bereaved son because no matter how busy he is, he always keeps his parents in his mind. Zhao’s parents gradually get used to this new form of communication enforced by their son. The increasingly fast life pace makes it difficult for city people to find time visiting families and relatives while modern electronic communication helps solve the problem.

Beijing witnesses the booming of its electronic industry. The number of China’s cell phone users climbed to the first chair in the world this year from the No. 16 of 10 years ago. Among the users, Beijing holds 43 percent

Headache Six: More Single Adults

An old saying goes like this: “It is a trouble to keep an adult daughter at home.” While now this saying is no longer the patent of daughters but has extended to sons too.

Aunt Zheng is doing well in everything. She is successful in her career and lives a happy life, yet she does have a worry in her mind -- caused by the marriage of her youngest son.

Like mother, Aunt Zheng’s youngest son is a successful young man. After he earned all the degrees available from BA, MA to Ph.D, he easily found a nice job. But he still remains single now.

Zheng’s son shares similar views with other bachelors: “So far I have not yet established my own career, and it is really too early to have a family. We are pursuing a high-quality life and we can never be content with the old lifestyle of ‘wife, kids and hot beds’.”

According to investigations, by March 2002, Beijing’s singles have doubled in number compared with 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the average age of elites in all professions has declined from 36 to 28, which suggests the so-called “daling qingnian” (unmarried men and women aging 28-35) have become a major group of professionals in Beijing.

Like Zheng’s son, other “dalingqingnian” all hold the strong belief that “bread will be there, everything will be there.”

Headache Seven: Hard to Have Grandchildren

Enjoying family love and happiness might be the highest satisfaction of every senior citizen in China. Yet now more and more parents are troubled by the fact that their married children do not want to have children early, or not at all.

Let’s take Lao Li as an example. Li’s two sons both got married three years ago but neither of them have children so far, which make Li worried deeply.

His older son, who is going to be 28 this year, knows his father’s mind clearly and often persuades him not to worry about it, while the younger son simply does not mention a single word on that. His reason is that “we are answering our nation’s call to have children late. In addition, most of the people of our age are not having children yet.”

China’s family planning program actually began from 1980 while working staff of the family planning department regards 1990 as a turning point. It is from 1990 that people started to follow the policy voluntarily unlike before when they were persuaded to practice it.

The number of couples who are willing to have only one child grows from 24 percent in 1990 to 89 percent today, showing the success of the country’s population control.

The two sons of Li certainly belong to the 89 percent. They said Beijing is the capital and as Beijing citizens they should take the lead and set examples for people in other provinces.

(china.org.cn by Zheng Guihong, November 6, 2002)

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