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Beiwu follow-up 1: villagers wait to move back

July 11, 2012

konjaku:  a previous post, “Beijing: Unification of the urban and rural 1. Beiwu and Dawangjing” (posted May 2012), described the situation of Beiwu village, chosen as a pilot project in the urban rural unification plan. The whole village would be demolished, with most of its site made into a green zone, with a designated area for commercial development. The village residents would move into a residential complex, and the members of the floating population who rented there would be displaced (in other words, the plan makes no provision for them). To avoid opposition from the residents, the plan stipulated that the process must “ allow the villagers to have a say in the urbanization process, and through control of village collective land, to partake of the gains of urbanization.”  That is, “‘We ourselves move out of our homes, we ourselves then build the new buildings, manage, and control the capital fund.’ The villagers through their collectively held land would participate in the urbanization process.”

As much as is possible through available newspaper articles and blogs, I will trace what has and will happen to Beiwu and Beiwu residents, with the aim of seeing how the plan, “the Beiwu model” is carried out.

As we have seen, one issue particular to Beiwu is that there is not much land available for development. The government, by transferring village land to public auction and acquiring the sums paid by developers for the land, usually counts on making a  large profit in the village redevelopment process. Without these profits, the government held back from granting Beiwu villagers urban resident status, which would mean having to give out more money to the village, on top of the promised compensation payments and new residences,  in social security and health insurance.

This is one point to watch: whether this decision to not grant urban residence status will be amended. Another point of interest is whether the Beiwu village collective will be able to successfully develop the sites under their control, thus directly “partak[ing] of the gains of urbanization.”

In 2009-06-01 in Beiwu village the process of demolition and removal officially began. (A few last hold-outs were forcibly removed 2009-12.) This article describes what is going on almost a year later. The new residence complex is under construction, and the villagers are waiting to move in. They have not received urban residence status, but the town government is in high grade financial shape 一级财政, and local officials expect financial support from there for villagers’ old age and health expenses.

An investigation of the urban rural unification plan pilot project –Beiwu village

The whole village moves to better quarters

Reporters Shen Qiang, Chen Hongren

China Economic Report 2010–3-04

http://www.ceh.com.cn/ceh/ztbd/lhbd/lhrd/60291.shtml

 

Beiwu Jiayuan construction site, after 2010 Spring Festival

At the ceremony to mark the start of rebuilding Beiwu, villagers express their happiness

 

2010 Spring Festival, Beiwu villager Wang Pengcheng (pseudonym)’s family is spending the new year in a rented room. After their houses were demolished last year, the more than 3000 villagers were scattered to different places. Though temporarily in “humble quarters,” Wang Pengcheng is not worried. “The new residences will be ready by summer. By the next year’s Spring Festival, I’ll greet the New Year in my own home.” The pilot project of remaking Beiwu village, begun in 2009, is going at a fast clip.

From the “tile economy” to Beiwu Jiayuan (the new residence complex)

If you drive from the Beijing city western fourth ring, taking the Xiangshan exit, then drive west for almost 1 kilometer, you reach a T-intersection. Going west, there is a wide, spacious, straight road going straight to the base of Xiangshan (Fragrant Hill). This is called Minzhuan Road. This is the only way for Beijing people to go from the center of the city to Fragrant Hills[ famous park]. Every day there is an endless line of traffic on this road. During traffic jams the drivers blow their horns and raise dust. Nowadays, along  Minzhuan Road on both sides there are row upon row of car dealerships. This is now an major destination for Beijingers who want to buy cars.

At the northwest corner of the T intersection are two small white buildings with a red flag flying in front. These are the headquarters of the Haidian district, Shijiqing town, Yuquan village committee.

If from the T intersection you drive north,  there is another road leading to the base of Yuquan mountain, called “Beiwu Village Road.” Since quite some time ago this was designated in the plan as a city green zone, both sides of the road are well planted. Flower gardens and the scenes of a pastoral landscape pass before ones eyes. Before 2009, if you drove this same stretch of road, you would soon come to a great many houses and compounds of peasant households –this would be Beiwu village.

Some 800 meters from the  Yuquan village committee buildings, there is a large construction site. On the enclosing wall at the site is large letters is written “Beiwu Jiayuan.” Entering the main gate, one passes across a stretch of vacant land, and the noise from Minzhuan Road gradually fades away. There are several tens of buildings going up here. This reporter saw that the exterior of the smaller six story buildings is almost completely finished –the roofs are done, the tile walls in place.

Accompanying this reporter was the Yuquan assistant party branch secretary Guo Yuming. “Housing in our district is of high quality, no matter what,” he said, with pride. Beijing residents are very fussy about being “up wind and up river,” and this location would make them envious, in the northwest corner of the city, between the 4th and 5th ring. The northern part has Yuquan mountain as a boundary, the west has Fragrant Hill, and to the east, not far, is the Summer Palace. Two years from now, a major road will pass nearby, and there are plans for three more roads, to make traffic conditions more convenient.

The New Year’s holiday had just ended, and the construction workers had not yet returned. The construction site seemed deserted. The construction site supervisor hurried to meet this reporter and introduce the project. Not only was this development ideally located, but the design of the buildings was well thought out. There was an elevator for every pair of residences per floor. This means it is easy to go in and out, especiallty for the old are those with physical handicaps. “There is a lot of housing on the market inside the city which cannot match this.”

“Everyone knows where their new home is in the development, they are just waiting for the key.” Guo Yuming told this reporter the ground breaking ceremony was 2009-03-18, and the plan was to  have residents move in to live on May Day (5-1), but because this year winter weather delayed construction, it was delayed till the 7th or 8th month.

This reporter afterwards learned that similar new buildings in the area, because of the superior location, were already going for 20,000 yuan per square meter.

A complicated evacuation campaign

It was still not the 15th of the first month of the lunar year, but the village committee office in Beiwu was strung with red lanterns, giving it a festive atmosphere for the New Year. A person in the office gave this reporter a detailed account of the whole process of moving out the inhabitants. “Now we can finally breathe a small sigh of relief. Up until the Spring Festival, we worked overtime every day, to deal with the issues associated with the evacuation. All kinds of problems came up we had to manage, making us quite unsettled.”Guo Yuming said.

“The Beiwu evacuation involves 775 household compounds, the people to be moved are 3222. The compensation total amount is 5.82 billion, the new housing development Beiwu Jiayuan has a total area of 172560.59 square meters, with 1980 residential suites. After the whole village has moved in, there will be 168 units left over.” The Yuquan village committee secretary Zhang Quan railed off these figures without glancing at his documents. “Every day we discuss these, ponder over all the questions that arise, so these figures are stuck fast in my brain.” He laughed.

Democracy and fairness –these are the watchwords for the evacuation process in Beiwu. When this reporter went to investigate at the Beiwu Jiayuan housing development, he was strongly impressed at their attention to details. The person in charge of construction pointed out a building, how the view from the upper floors is the best, light and spacious. The floors are higher than usual,  and could be renovated to add more surface area to the residence. In order to encourage the villagers to move without delay, they have announced that those who moved out first will have their pick of the residential units. In addition, those households which supported the pilot project in this way, will receive in advance a cash award for moving expenses, to the amount of 50,000 yuan.

“As long as there are problems with the demolition and relocation process, it is impossible for people to feel satisfied. It is hard to avoid having at least a few problems. But, honestly, things have gone pretty well, and the evacuation process has been quite smooth,” Guo Yuming said.

—————

Beiwu village has a long history. This was a production area for rice grown for use at the imperial palace, the famous “capital area rice.” A certain old person told this reporter his memory of the rice, which, when steamed, did not need any vegetable or meat dish to accompany it, it had such a sweet taste.

But those days are long gone. The only farming now done is contract gardening in the green belt areas, and a small quantity of cherry orchards. Some villagers work in construction, some in the service trades, and a few in small sized industries. By far the main source of income has been rentals of refurbished rooms to migrant workers. Although the villagers are looking forward to living in their new residences, they are worried as to what they can rely on for income in the future.

——

Summary of last section: Beiwu villagers will not become urban residents. Nor will the economic conditions of Beiwu village undergo any fundamental change. However, the surrounding economy is strong, and the financial administration of Yuquan village and Sijiqing town is in top class financial shape. Therefore Beiwu officials ( Zhang Quan, Guo Yuming) tell the reporter that they expect the villagers to receive generous pension, medical aid, and social security payments as needed, and that they expect they will gradually transform into town residents. Still, the problem of employment opportunities for the villagers after the move remains an urgent problem.

北坞村 Beiwu village

北坞嘉园 Beiwu Jiayuan

香山 Xiangshan Fragrant Hills

闵庄路 Minzhuan road

玉泉村 Yuquan village

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