Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Official Word on Beijing's Development

Officials from the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee had a press conference today, expounding on how the upcoming games have created a boon for the city.

They gave a laundry list of numbers to illustrate how the economy, infrastructure development and society have benefited from the Olympics which is just over a year away.

When a foreign reporter asked about the disappearing hutongs and what the city was going to do about it in light of all the construction in Beijing, the officials politely admonished him for not knowing the city well enough and that there are many examples where the city has successfully integrated new and old structures together. His only cited example was Hou Hai, where old hutongs have been converted to laid-back bars and restaurants.

He also asked why 1,700 hours were spent during the May Holiday monitoring people who spit, but again officials avoided giving the answer and instead enthusiastically replied how this exercise had greatly improved the city's image.

Other reporters tried to get more details on vague statements; again nothing was ever directly answered.

The only interesting morsel out of the event was when one official declared that despite property prices rising nine per cent already this year, he believed the prices would remain stable after the Games.

We'll have to hold him to it, because that was the only thing we could hang onto.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bern!

Excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is a "hutong"?

Your most devoted blog fan!


Beijing Calling said...

Sorry -- I should have explained in the story! A hutong is a narrow lane that's almost like a maze that lead to people's residences... they are a throwback from Imperial China. And because they are so old and hard to maintain (and because of development), the charm of these places are fast disappearing.

Another aspect of the city disappearing are the siheyuan or courtyard houses, like the one featured in Raise the Red Lantern.

toothfiller said...

I guess some officials must felt embarrased about these relics from past. Too bad they are not trying to preserve and capitalize (oops that's a bad word there) on its charming aspects.

IheartNY said...

my dad says there is one last "authentic" hutong left in beijing, and one really crappy tourist one which everyone goes to. let me know if you find the "authentic" hutong!

IheartNY said...

ps. guess which one we found when we were in beijing last summer.

pps. the silk road market isn't bad if you have time for it