Useful Notes: Beijing

aka: Bicycle City

北京. Variously romanised as Beijing (pronounced bay-jing and not beige-ing) or Peking (the older form, originally adopted by French missionaries four hundred years ago) in English, it's the capital of the People's Republic of China. The name literally means 'Northern Capital'—China having gone through a fair number of capital cities in its history, for instance Nanjing/Nanking meaning 'Southern Capital'. (In even older dynasties, many other cities other than predecessors to modern Beijing and Nanjing have been referred as Northern/Southern/Eastern/Western Capitals, such as Kaifeng, Henan once was 'Eastern Capital'. In today's Chinese, 'Eastern Capital' refers to Tokyo, Japan) Roughly 20% of the people in the world at any one time have been ruled from this city for centuries, which is a little scary, when you think about it.

This trope's name for the city references the Katie Melua song "Nine Million Bicycles", and is based on the fact that traffic jams with bicycles used to occur in the streets (it's still probably one of the few cities on Earth were the bike lane can take up half the street). The bikes have been replaced by myriads of cars these days, along with lots of air pollution and thick smog.

The population of this Mega City is roughly 17.43 million (2010?), based on those who live there six or more months a year (you need an official residency called 'Hukou' to live in Beijing and enjoy its full social benefits). By rich-country standards, the pollution in Beijing is very bad. By developing-country standards, the air quality in Beijing is not exceptional, being rated "only" 13th worst in the world in 2004 by the World Bank. (Obviously dozens of smaller cities in Hebei province was not counted for not being major, see below)

However, Beijing is ill-defined, and equating the actual city with Beijing Municipality is quite silly. Despite this, as the capital city of the world's largest and most powerful unitary state (as opposed to US/Russia/Germany etc. have a federal structure), the actual urban area of Beijing is (one of) political, cultural and economical center of modern PRC state and Chinese-speaking world in general, with the "one of" only apply in economical aspects. For all ambitious youth of China north of Yellow River, Beijing offers best opportunities to advance their career and thus climb the ladder of social classes. In a few fields such as performing arts, this situation even apply to 'all' of China.

So despite high living cost, especially in real estate, infamous smog (contrary to stereotype, it is not persistent in Beijing; people from the neighboring Hebei province would actually be surprised by frequent blue skies), and most importantly, non-local people moved to Beijing may wait years even decades to get a 'Hukou' thus enjoy full social benefits of various kinds, Beijing's real population continues to grow well past 20 million. Many people don't have a 'Hukou' of Beijing, and live in faraway suburban districts within Beijing Municipality instead of tightly controlled city proper. In recent years new people are being driven out even beyond Beijing Municipality borders. In 2000s a joke appeared that costumers by houses in Beijing only to find it actually in Hebei Province; in 2015 that is not only real but effectively the norm. The Beijing Municipality is much, much larger than Greater London, includes vast rural areas not intended by urbanization; former county seats (distinct from Beijing proper) in Municipality and later small cities in Hebei becomes satellite cities.

The central government attempts to control the overcrowding of Beijing, with success in city proper but the above scenario occurs. By 2014 it's necessary to coordinate the Beijing Municipality with neighboring areas of Hebei province and Tianjin Municipality to prevent small cities in Hebei being decayed into crowding commuter towns. 'JingJinJi' indicates the economical integration of three Municipalities/Provinces.

This is the Mega City trope played into full extent. One can stand on Tian'anmen square and image like this:

1) 3~5 km away you would see 2nd Ring Highway (Site of demolished Old city walls);

2) 10~15 km away will encompass most of the modern city proper;

3) 25~35 km away will encompass the extent of subway (as of 2015) and former county seats that converted to districts and huge city in its own right (if not subservient to Beijing Municipality already)

The border of commonly recognized 6 inner districts varies between 2) and 3).

4) 35~50 km away you'll still find people after people commute to the previous areas on a daily basis, bus (or even high-speed rail for Langfang) being crowded than any other on rush hours. Half of them are located in Hebei Province.

5) 50~80 km away you'll approach the extent of city buses (the city bus ignored the Beijing Municipality border long ago), site of new airport under construction, county considering integration to Beijing Municipality, etc.

The border of Beijing Municipality varies between 4) and 5).

6) 80~200 km away you'll finally arrive at other proud prefecture-level cities not entirely willing to become servant of Beijing, and Tianjin (a Municipality itself), each having its own satellites (although most not nearly close to their masters at a metropolitan-area level) but Beijing's influence become so large to absorb these cities' satellites that is scenario 4) and 5) and potentially more. Administrative boundaries between province/municipalities begin impede development in 4) and 5), with past attempts at cooperation with limited results due to bureaucracies. The central government vows to intervene in 2014 and finally the concept of 'JingJinJi' appears to went through. Under this vision some of Beijing's functionality would be transferred to cities across the region.

Thus the following important cities, having gained convenience but also being sucked out resources and opportunities by neighboring Beijing, are eventually to enter Beijing Metropolitan area, connected by everything from city bus to high-speed rail (which are already happening):

Tianjin (Larger than New York. Central Tianjin connects to Central Beijing by rail at 33 minutes, probably less worrying than internal traffic jam)

Shijiazhung, capital of Hebei (Larger than Chicago)

Baoding, Tangshan (comparable to Dallas)

Langfang, Cangzhou, Hengshui, Chengde, Zhangjiakou (all handily beats Washington D.C.)

and tens of smaller county-level cities and county seat townships (some of them already in 4) and 5)).

7) The furthest extent of Beijing's direct influence is at the prefecture-level city of Handan, Hebei, which despite 440km distance attempts to play into the integration game, accepting transfer of industries from Beijing like anyone else in Hebei (some fear this will contribute to the already severe pollution, but the new factories are using more environmental-friendly technology) and the city-prefecture unitary authority have explicitly stated Handan would serve the gateway between Beijing Region and Central China. It's much easier to go north (Shijiazhuang/Beijing bound) than south (no southbound train would originate at Handan despite huge demand, most will originate in Beijing).

Similar region would be Greater London/Jakarta/Mexico City/Delhi/Moscow/Īle-de-France. But when Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration plan truly realized, it would dwarf any of the above, probably surpass Tokyo-Yokohama as the most populous and prosperous metropolitan area in the world. That being said, the Yangtze River Delta have been better in urbanization and economic development for a thousand years and still today. Today's Shanghai/Suzhou/Wuxi can rival Tokyo already. However, Nanjing/Hangzhou or even Suzhou have rich cultural as well as political assets to have their identity fiercely independent from Shanghai. While in the capital region everyone can feel the centrality of Beijing in every aspects like Paris, Moscow, etc.

If everything goes well in eyes of Communist Party of China, in future behold 100 million people being called "Beijinger" like people in Īle-de-France being confused with citizens of Paris.note  And somebody would comment that China has become the Roman Empire and Beijing is Rome itself.

Beijing hosted the Olympic Games in 2008 (in the sense of Municipality, although mostly in city proper. Some events are held elsewhere, even including Hong Kong), which provoked massive controversy beforehand, particularly with regard to China's human rights violations and Tibet. The Games itself, unlike Moscow 1980, was largely peaceful. They also won the rights to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, making them the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. And, there was already a controversy regarding how their official Olympic song sounds far too much like Let It Go from Frozen. What other controversies await this upcoming Olympics have yet to be seen.

北京 in fiction

Alternative Title(s):

Peking, Bicycle City