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Dawangjing follow-up 10: the good points and the bad points

October 9, 2012

konjaku: these articles interviewing Dawangjing villagers, giving “their side of the story” may have the aim of inducing sympathy for the villagers, to counteract a general impulse of envy and resentment against their sudden wealth. In any case, what they reveal is that the villagers may have previously been in a polluted environment lacking sufficient infrastructure, but they were self-sustaining economic agents, within a community which they enjoyed, and they felt themselves to be part of a history, the history of Dawangjing, which contributed to their identity as persons. After the move, they appreciate being in a better environment, but they are also quite conscious of what they have lost. After an initial burst of “dizziness” in which they spent money at times unwisely, they are concerned with being dependent on forces beyond their control into the future. At least when they added rooms to their houses to rent, they were acting upon a need and generating their own income. Now they live in temporary luxury and wait for others — the township government, the business development forces — to decide things for them.

Dawangjing –the joys and pains of moving out


The Beijing News

The first day of the lunar New Year, Li Yan (not her real name) with her husband and son came to her parents house to celebrate the New Year. On the walls paper cut-outs were put up, sausages were hanging on the terrace, on a small table were several boxes if Yuxi brand cigarettes and fruit juices –everything was prepared.

Although it looks as though life is good, Li Yan thinks otherwise. “At present I do not go back and look at our old piece of land, it just makes me angry.”

Li Yan’s family received 2 million yuan in compensation. In order to place their son in a somewhat better upper middle school, they did not move into the designated replacement housing, but using one million yuan of their compensation fund, they bought a 90 square meter residence priced on the market in Wangjing. Since Li Yan’s husband loves cars, he indulged himself in spending 400, 000 yuan on an Audi A6.

Although they live in a multi-story building and drive a nice car, Li Yan has a new worry, “At the time it would have been better to move into the designated housing and use our money to buy our son his own residence. Now we no longer have enough money to buy any other residence. We spending the New Year’s holiday burning money. We’ve run through a large fortune.”

“Living in a tall building, it is not lively and bustling like the village was. Li Yan says her former neighbor lives in the building opposite, but in one year they haven’t managed to meet. She sighed. She wants to celebrate New Years by taking a walk, stopping in at the house of relations and friends, but now after the village demolition everyone has money, and you cannot get together without giving a present. To save face you have no choice but to give gifts of money, at the least 5 or 600 yuan at each house.

Li Yan cherishes the memory of her former life in the village. Then, when there was a holiday, they could just take their son and travel somewhere. In the village they could work in the labor pool, doing odd jobs, going in when they wanted to, which gave them several hundred yuan a month in income. On top of that they had the income from renting rooms. therefore they were sure to make over 2000 yuan a month. Nowadays, every penny they spend is drawn from their savings.

Today Dawangjing village has already become a flat parcel of cleared ground. According to the plan, it will change into a business development surpassing anything Wangjing has yet seen.

Li Yan remembers Dawangjing village as being dirty and messy, piled with garbage. There was no place you even wanted to step as you walked. Inside the buildings it was perpetually damp. “Demolishing the village, is not just about becoming suddenly wealthy, There are good points and bad points about it.” The benefit for Li Yan is that her living environment is better now. The bad thing is that although they have a compensation fund, every day its overall value decreases as commodity prices soar. There is the building fund, costs to maintain the car, residential district fees, a fee to park the car –it all adds up.

“Peasants have a bitter life, without ever having enough money to count. All of the sudden they get a huge sum of money, they become dizzy.” Li Yan thought buying a 200,000 yuan car was good enough, but her husband went out and came back with an Audi instead. Audis, BMWs–these are cars seldom seen in the village before. “Driving an Audi, a Guangzhou Honda, is truly something. But before, everything we earned we worked for, now we just go through the day resting on our laurels.”

Before, Li Yan had considered how to better her son’s livelihood, and on their one story house built two additional rooms. One was for her son to live in, one was to rent, giving them extra income. After the demolition, their total living space went from 168 square meters to 90 square meters. She and her husband decided that when they became old, they would move to an old people’s home, leaving the residence for their son’s use.

The villagers have now all changed status from agricultural to non-rural workers. Before New Years, Li Yan underwent on the job training to become a sanitary worker. She received a training certificate and has been assigned a slot. Her salary will be 1000 yuan a month, together husband and wife will make 2000 yuan. “At 40 I can take early retirement and receive 90% of my salary, but I have two years to go.” Li Yan is worried that she may not get used to a regular job. Before, as part of the village labor pool, she could go to work or not go as she chose. Now if she has to go to work everyday on a rigid schedule, she won’t have the same time to care for her family.

After New Years, the job she put down that she wanted was as a sanitary worker in Wangjing Park. Inside the park is the several hundred year old pagoda tree of Dawangjing village. “After all is said and done, seeing the tree is like seeing an old friend. If it wasn’t for Dawangjing village, we wouldn’t have what we have now.”

Reporter: Tian Beibei

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