Beijing (北京) or as previously romanized, Peking, is the capital of the People's Republic of China. The name, pronounced like bay-jing and not beige-ing, literally means "Northern Capital". note It has been the capital of China since Kublai's Yuan dynasty. Often noted for its Peking duck cuisine and traditional residential alleys known as hutong. One of the four municipalities alongside Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing.
As the capital city of the world's largest and most powerful unitary state, the actual urban area of Beijing is the political, cultural and economical center of the modern PRC and the Chinese-speaking world in general. For China's ambitious youth north of Yellow River, Beijing offers the best opportunities to advance in 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.
The population of this Mega City is roughly 17.43 million as of 2010, an estimate based on those who have lived there for six months or more. To reside in Beijing and enjoy its full social benefits, you need a residency permit called "Hukou", which may take years to get. Thus, Beijing is ill-defined, and equating the city proper with the municipality is quite silly. The city's real population continues to grow well past 20 million, despite the high living cost and the infamous smog.note
Many people don't have the aforementioned permit to reside in Beijing, and thus live in faraway suburban districts within the municipality, but not in the city proper. The municipality is an entity larger than 40 sovereign states and includes rural areas, other county seats and some satellite cities. Even so, urban sprawl has recently pushed the urban area beyond the municipal borders and into Hebei Province.
The central government commonly attempted to control Beijing's overcrowding, with success in the city proper, but with mixed results in the outlying parts of the city. Therefore, the Beijing Municipality has been economically integrated with neighboring areas to prevent districts from decaying into little more than commuter towns. Therefore, an entity that governs over Beijing, Heibei and Tianjin was created, called JingJinJi (named after Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei's one-character abbreviation, Ji). The Xiong'an New Area was later established in Hebei to serve as a development hub for the JingJinJi economic triangle and offload workloads of the state capital.
Due to Beijing's enormous size, enormous traffic jams are to be expected. Formerly, bicycles were commonly used; so much, actually, that traffic jams occurred in the bicycle lanes, even though they took half the street (hence Katie Melua's song "Nine Million Bicycles"). However, these days the bicycles have been replaced by myriads of cars, bringing lots of air pollution and thick smog with them. note The pollution had the interesting effect of causing the city to fund a truly gargantuan bike-share program and now there are probably more bicycles in Beijing than every before (so many bicycles in fact that the millions of public-use bikes clogging the sidewalks were declared a public nuisance and most of them were confiscated and junked by the government).
To fully comprehend Beijing's size, imagine yourself standing on Tian'anmen square, the center of the city. If you were to walk outwards in any direction, you would reach:
- 3 to 5km away: The place where the Old City Walls once stood. Nowadays, you'll see the 2nd Ring Highway.
- 10 to 15km away: The border of the modern city proper.
- 25 to 35km away: The subway's termini, as well as other county-seats-turned districts, and huge cities in their own right.
- 35 to 50km away: Towns of people who commute to the innermost areas on a daily basis, either by bus or High Speed Rail (as is the case for neighboring Langfang). Some of these towns are located in Hebei Province.
- 50 to 80km away: The terminus for most city buses, the new airport that's under construction, and other counties considering integration into the municipality of Beijing. note
- 80 to 200km away: Independent prefecture-level cities unwilling to become servants of Beijing, most of which have satellite cities of their own. At this point, the city begins to seem more chaotic, as the different bureaucracies of the many entities impede a full integrated development.
- 200 to 400km away: The furthest extend of the city's direct influence, with cities like Handan, that attempt to play into the integration game, accepting industry transfers from Beijing like anyone else in Hebei.note
Tens of thousand smaller, county-level cities and county seat townships . have gained convenience, but have also been sucked out of resources and opportunities by Beijing. Thus, they are gradually integrating with Beijing to form a large metropolitan area, connected by everything: from city buses, to high-speed rail. Out of all these cities, the most important ones are:
- Tianjin: Connected to Central Beijing by a 33-minute train ride. This municipality is larger than New York City.
- Shijiazhuang: Capital of Hebei Province. Larger than Chicago.
- Baoding, Tangshan: Both cities are comparable to Dallas.
- Langfang, Cangzhou, Hengshui, Chengde, Zhangjiakou: All single-handedly beating Washington, D.C. in population.
Similar areas would be Greater London/Moscow/Île-de-France/Seoul Capital Area. However if everything goes well in the eyes of the CPC, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration plan is successfully carried out, the resulting conurbation would effortlessly surpass Tokyo-Yokohama as the largest and most populous metropolitan area in the world, dwarfing any other city and having around 50 million people being called "Beijinger".
While there are other metroplexes in China that can easily rival the aforementioned cities, like the Yangtze River Deltanote , most of the cities within the area have rich cultural and political assets that keep their identity fiercely independent. In contrast, inhabitants of the capital region can feel the centrality of Beijing in every aspect of their lives, and while prefecture-level cities such as Tianjin aren't at such a great risk of losing their identity, the Beijing Municipality continues to expand into and assimilate Hebei's counties. And somebody will comment that China has become the Roman Empire and Beijing is Rome itself.
The most famous location in Beijing is Tiananmen Square. The first word translates to “Gate of Heavenly Peace”, and was the name of the gate to the Forbidden City. The square itself was first built in 1651 and was expanded after Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party took power on October 1st 1949, an event still celebrated annually in China. Due to its history, it has a lot of cultural significance. The most notable locations in the square include:
- Great Hall of the People: The official meeting place of various government bodies. The biggest is the “National People's Congress” (NPC) which meets every year for 2 weeks. It is the largest legislature in the world at 2,980 members, though it acts as little more than a rubber stamp for the current leadership.
- Monument to the People's Heroes: Dedicated to the many who died during 8 revolutionary movements in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- National Museum of China: A history museum containing various artifacts from Chinese history. It is the the 2nd most visited museum in the world.
- Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, AKA Mausoleum of Mao Zedong: The final resting place of Mao Zedong's body, which has been preserved and may be viewed by visitors. note
A culturally important city, Beijing recently hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, with most games taking place in the city proper, as well as some in the municipality.note This provoked massive controversy beforehand, particularly in regards to China's human rights violations and Tibet as well as food safety issues. However, the Games themselves, unlike Moscow in 1980, were largely peaceful.
This also helped Beijing win the rights to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, making them the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. However, controversy sparked over the striking similarities between the first official Olympic song and Frozen (2013)'s Let It Go note and as mentioned before, gross human rights violations, to the point of drawing diplomatic boycotts from many nations, while other diplomats and leaders did not attend due to COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions.
Beijing in fiction
- Moment in Peking, a novel by Lin Yutang depicting the changes that took place in Chinese society between the end of the Qing dynasty and the Japanese invasion.
- Beijing Bicycle
- The Last Emperor
- The main setting for the 2010 reboot of The Karate Kid (which isn't about karate, but rather kung fu).
- Curse of the Golden Flower
- Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games
- Command & Conquer: Generals: The game begins with the terrorist Global Liberation Army detonating a nuclear bomb in front of the Forbidden City. The geography is all off, however; Tiananmen Square and 14 Chang'an Street are missing.