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Dawangjing follow-up 5: “the old village tree was our standard for everything”

September 13, 2012

Dawangjing villagers because of demolition and relocation find themselves suddenly rich –in the village many lawsuits arise

Source: Yangshi (News 1+1)The following is a transcription of a t.v. program, “The village which became wealthy overnight,” broadcast 2010-11-22.

For Dawangjing villagers, the time for demolition came suddenly.  The peasants of a village with a 1000 year old history did not have time to psychologically prepare themselves. But what caused them more difficulty than they anticipated, was that as participants in the urban rural unification project, their own lives changed so radically. They changed into persons of wealth, each and every household has purchased a new residence and an automobile.

One villager with over 1 million yuan in compensation money, bought a black BMW, which he tried to use as an illegal taxi. “When I drive this car I feel a kind of pressure from others. Since I bought this with money which I did not earn myself, I think others are jealous of me.”

Villager Zhang Xiu was head of one of the hard-up families in the village. His two grandsons both have cerebral palsy. When the village was demolished, his family received three residential units, and in addition he purchased one more unit at the market price. After that he still had 1,000,000 or more yuan left over. The wooden cart he had made himself for his grandsons was now replaced by a specialized nursing unit costing 20,000 yuan.  He also went out and bought two cars.

Zhang Xiu: “ I have been a schoolteacher all my life, for 44 years, But I couldn’t figure out how to calculate this amount of money. People who pursue money die from overwork, but if money pursues you, its too easy.

Scene — a park. Reporter narrates. Only those who have a special connection to this place, will know that this, “Wangjing Park,” used to a place called “Dawangjing Village.” One year ago, the event which the media described as “demolition with force, without resistance, done within 53 days, a miracle,” occurred at this place. Nevertheless, the dispensing of huge sums of money, resulting in sudden wealth, has led to unforeseen problems.

Mr Wang: I think demolition and removal from one’s house destroys something in a person. Now we have mothers accusing daughters, elder brothers accusing younger brothers, taking each other to court, sisters fighting over who is right and who is not, a free-for-all fight.

Wang Qiyan: Naturally it is worrisome. Elder brothers, elder sisters, will not wave to each other on the street, will not give up a penny –it all goes back to memories of the demolition.

Another: in my family it has been divorce, divorce, one divorce after another. Truly.

Another: it’s good that your body doesn’t get dismantled [outwardly you stay healthy], but inside your mind something is taken apart. You brood over what you loved, then you become sick.

In one year, the Dawangjing villagers have gone through a lot. There have been over one hundred lawsuits, and more than 20 people have died, three or four times more than usual.

Mr Zhai: Since we moved here, everything has been out of sorts. In the village, I earned 6000 yuan a month renting rooms to migrants. Now I don’t have money.

Mr Zhai looks down from the 12th floor balcony of his market priced residential suite onto the site of his former village. He took out for us a birdcage which he kept hidden, because in city districts one is not allowed to keep birds.

Every morning I get up early and walk.

Reporter: do you take your birds?

I walk 10 minutes, then I look at the tree which was the Wangjing old pagoda tree.

After the village demolition, the Dawangjing village old pagoda tree was moved to a different place in Wangjing park and preserved. The villagers frequently return back there.

Wang Qiyan: the tree was our standard for everything. Whose house was whose, we thought of as how far from the tree. If you ask me,when you give money without rhyme or reason to the common people who has been uprooted, they spend it recklessly, and only consider later.


Commentator: Professor Wang Xixin:

Although it seems the Dawangjing villagers have acquired sudden wealth, it is actually wealth that has accumulated over a long time, the wealth inherent in the property which sustained their ancestors and which they expected would sustain their descendants in the future. We should consider the money they receive a just exchange for the property they have relinquished, and not be envious.

Documentary Host: You say it is reasonable, but what if it is so much money, beyond imagination, is it still reasonable?

We keep hearing about cases in which compensation is “so much, so huge” but really most of the time it is quite low. In the case of Dawangjing, the settlement is the result of negotiation. It is fair, impartial, voluntary. Rather it is our expectations of what the common people should receive that are askew.


konjaku: it turns out that attempting to ameliorate the displacing of villagers in the urban rural unification project by giving them more generous compensation funds and real estate properties,  may lead to unexpected side-effects. The very speed and efficiency with which the Dawangjing villagers were induced to accept lavish awards and move out, may have contributed to the ensuing emotional distress and difficulty in adjusting to their new life as city residents. Some families fall into disputes over what to do with their “overnight wealth,” to others, it seems strange to have money they did not earn. The villagers feel the envious stares of society at large upon them, while brooding over the sense of belonging somewhere which they now have lost.


As of 2012-09-18 the documentary of which this is a partial, much edited transcript can still be seen here:

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