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“Now we can take a little rest.”

October 9, 2012

konjaku: a glowingly positive view of leaving the village behind, since the content was provided by the local party committee. Other sources contest the statement that the Xiaohongmen residents were “well-compensated.”

Chaoyang district: Xiaohongmen residents after receiving lavish compensation have a fortunate life


Source: Beijing Economic News Network

The peasants new village of multi-storied complexes standing close together, a few steps from a community green area –this scene tells the story of the transformation of  Xiaohongmen under the urban and rural unification plan. Elderly persons strolled in the courtyard, children run and jumped about, Among these happy smiling faces one could see the brand new life of those who had been well compensated for the demolition of their old residences. The old dirt roads and small buildings have been exchanged for roads of asphalt and high residential towers. Parting from a life of tilling the land, the peasants can experience personally the fruits of urban culture. They sigh with amazement at the good outcome, so different from the past.

Xiaohongmen is in the southeast of Beijing, in the fourth ring, part of  the area that falls under the urban and rural unification plan.Because a large number of members of the floating population live there, the town environment faced many pressures. The town and village councils invested a lot of money in fixing the water, electricity, sewage, and repairing the roads, but in the end they weren’t able to fundamentally transform the  backward conditions of the environment. At the end of 2006, in coordination with the Beijing city plan and the construction of the green zone, Xiaohongmen began the demolition and relocating process.  The dirty environment, the old and shabby buildings, were replaced by high residential towers –the peasants’ long cherished dream.

Mrs Wu — to go to the bathroom, she no longer has to walk down the road

2009 was a big year for Mrs Wu –she moved into her new home, the Hongbo complex c-block number three, and married off a daughter.  Of her life before, she said, “We were in the wholesale business. Every day I got up early and went to bed late, rushing about in all sorts of weather. I and my husband had to be very competitive, always worried someone would get the advantage on us. The object of all our struggles was to live in a high tower, just like the city dwellers.” Recalling her dream of a better life, Mrs Wu sighed with emotion.” We did not know when our neighborhood would be demolished, but we always looked forward to that moment. When the time came, we did not hesitate but signed the agreement to relocate right away.”

Last year they spent their last winter in their one story house. They couldn’t help feeling a bit sad about parting from their home of several decades. But they kept themselves busy as on other days, and their state of mind was calm. They knew they would soon be moving into a new building with two apartments. One apartment they would live in, the other they would rent, one would be where they lived, and the other would be their livelihood. “Keeping in mind that we now had a secure livelihood, we did not worry.” Smiling, she said, “I told my husband, the two of us can now take a little rest.”

Their apartment is well-lit and spacious, cozy and comfortable. Even on this day of gloomy weather the inside is warm and pleasant.  From the balcony one looks down on pleasing scenery.  Mrs Wu said, “When I look, my mind is at ease, and my heart disease does not bother me.”

In their previous one story house, she had to seal the house shut when the wind blew, which left it pitch dark inside. When the weather was cold, she lit a fire, but the temperature never rose above 7 degrees. Going to the bathroom was even more inconvenient, as they had to go outside and walk a certain distance. Now they have heat. Without having to light a fire, they could keep the room temperature above 10 degrees. They can turn on a faucet and hot water will come out. It is much easier to take a bath or prepare food. At the end of last year, the district installed electric meters, and for every household, a card operated circuit box to switch power on and off. This resolved the problems residents were having with temporary outages. Since then “the district has not had a single power outage.”

Auntie Chen

On winter nights we no longer have to get up to put on more clothes and put more wood on the fire

2007-01. Auntie Chen takes pride in the fact that she was the first person to sign a contract to move. “To demolish and relocate to something better, that was the trend, and I grabbed on to it.” At that time, many peasants had a wait and see attitude. They felt hopeful –then worried — happy about moving into the residential towers, but worried about having additonal expenses. That which was most difficult for them was parting with their native land. “Everyone said they didn’t want to move, they wanted to go back and look at their old house, but now, they admire us for being the first to move! It is not so easy to make such a change to a better life when when is already old.”

Speaking of her former life in the village, Auntie Chen said, pounding her hip with her hand, ”I was troubled by lumbago, and my husband’s health wasn’t good either. I had to carry him on my back. At night we were woken up by the cold inside the house. We had to get up, put on more clothes, and put more wood on the fire.Once a strong wind blew the snow in, and we had to spread pitch on the walls to waterproof them and carried out the snow. Afterwards we rented a coal -burner at 120 yuan a month, and managed to endure the winter by burning altogether three loads of coal. I was old, this was hard for me.”

Now, Auntie Chen’s two rooms are neat and tidy. Never again will the wind penetrate or the rain leak in. She will not have to put on coal late at night, or worry about running to the public lavatory. Freed from these inconveniences, she has learned how to enjoy life, growing flowers on her balcony. Sitting on her sofa, she watches t.v. and does embroidery, enjoying the afternoon sunshine.

The environment can transform people. The urbanization of Xiaohongmen has already transformed the appearance of the village, improving quality of life for the villagers. Even more important, it has spurred the transformation of the villagers mode of life and their way of thinking. The demolishing and relocating was pulling open the curtain of the first act. The Xiaohongmen residents’ dream of the beautiful city will continue to emerge on the stage.

(Contributing content to this article: the Chaoyang Party district working committee)

小红门 Xiaohongmen

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