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The Wanliu C land parcel and the priority school

June 11, 2014

konjaku: I accessed this article while following up on the demolition of Liulangzhuang village. While the “expense” of demolishing Liulangzhuang seems to have repercussions on the surrounding urban fabric, this article led me to other issues I would like to investigate in the next series of posts. What are the effects of “school district residences” and priority schools” in the larger society? (Priority school is my translation for 重点学校, usually translated as “key schools.”) What these are will become clear in the notes following the translation of this article.

For the moment, I shift the focus from displaced villagers to already established urban residents and their struggles: specifically, the attempt to successfully place their children in the best schools. For these families, the transition from pre-school to elementary school is an important milestone. Ultimately, those with better financial resources and influence have advantages in getting into the school of their choice.
Next year in Wanliu there will probably emerge a new “land king,” but overburdened school districts cause people on the periphery to feel dissatisfied
Source: Huaxia Times, 2013-11-16



People are jealous of those who have the money to buy a residence in the best school district, starting with elementary school, no matter the price, but who knows that these wealthy purchasers are also putting pressure on school districts?

“School zone residences” are concentrated in the Wanliu area. At present the “C” land parcel on the west side of the Zhongguancun Number 3 elementary school new campus, originally slated to be part of the green zone, has had its destiny changed by a paper plan, and is now transformed into construction of high rise residences.

A number of local residents have expressed their dissatisfaction to this newspaper. Of 1400 households in the nearby Bishuiyuntian residences, 1331 expressed opposition. The reason is that Wanliu already has a high population density. The elementary school grades are overcrowded, there is a lack of kindergardens. If the number of residences increase, “We have to compete with those people to be early birds in getting into the school classes under the quota.” Even so, the opposition of local residents won’t stop the construction.

A reporter of this newspaper inquired by phone as to how the plan changed [from green zone to buildings], asking to see required documents, such as “Solicitation of Opinions on the Project’s Merit,” but no one ever answered the phone, and to this date no Haidian government department has given a response.

One item in the “land king” stakes is the Zhonghe Group’s “Wanliu Academy” [a luxury residential real estate development], which has not yet gone on the market. Perhaps a new land king will emerge in the new year.

A Beijing real estate analyst told this reporter, that land available in Wanliu for development will decrease every year going forward. Already this year, no new parcels have been put on the market. There is one last parcel of land designated for residences, and that parcel will probably make the new land king. The last parcel of such land sold at 4,4200 yuan per square meter. In the future, the anticipated price could go as high as 150,000 yuan per square meter.

From this, we can well imagine what the cost of the C land parcel was. The C parcel, in Haidian district, the south part of Wanliu, is close to the Bagou subway stop [#10 line], near Wancheng Huafu, and is 7000 square meters.

As for why the plan changed to allow the C parcel to be rezoned for residential use, the reason the Haidian district government gives, is that Haidian town had a large outlay of funds that went for the demolition of Liulangzhuang village, and to make up that outlay and fill in the deficit in their accounts, they needed to raise funds by selling the C parcel[to developers].

This reporter investigated the pertinent materials and found that in Liulangzhuang there was a compensation ratio of 1:1, and in addition a one time monetary payment. According to reports, the actual compensation received was over 25,000 yuan per square meter. Because the village site was strictly allocated to becoming a green zone, as part of the overall plan to preserve the environment around the Summer Palace, the Haidian government could not reap any profits from the village land by selling it, therefore they sold the C parcel instead. However, local residents are not buying this explanation. One resident told this reporter that even with the profits from the C parcel land sale, there are still insufficient funds to cover the expenses of the Liulangzhuang relocation.

If the one last parcel of land designated for residences in Wanliu is auctioned off in 2014, even though the scale of construction allowed will not be large, the price for the land will still be sky high. If it reaches 50,000 yuan per square meter, the Haidian government will realize a profit of 1 billion yuan.

Even if the total building size is under 20,000 square meters, still, just as in the case of the “Hummingbird Community” residence project when it was first announced, it will probably meet with strong opposition from nearby residents. “At present in Wanliu there is no place to park cars. If any empty lot is available to become a parking lot, the Haidian government builds a building on it instead.” That is what local residents say.
The same residents say, the population of Wanliu has already reached the saturation point. Traffic, parking, kindergardens etc., are all strained to meet demand, and building another high rise building on the C parcel aggravates the situation further. At this point, the increased population density will bring about a loss of order.

As many as 4000 households in local residence complexes Kangqiao Shuijun, Bishui Yuntian, and Wancheng Huafu have submitted objections. They request the government to revoke changing the C parcel land plan, and to preserve the original plan.

All these residential complexes in Wanliu –Kangqiao Shuijun, Shuimo Fengjing, Fengshang Guoji, Bishui Yuntian, Wancheng Huafu– along with those still under construction, have a special characteristic: the residents can register in a Beijing priority school, the Zhongguancun Number 3 Elementary School. Prices for these school district residential buildings have reached the same level as in Hong Kong. They may go for 100,000 yuan per square meter.
Zhongguancun #3 Elementary School started building its new campus 2013-04, and it is scheduled to be completed next year. At the appointed time, the Number 3 elementary school and the Zhongguancun middle school will move to the new campus. And the C land parcel is just to the west of this new campus.

At present the Number 3 elementary school has 10 sections for every grade, and in each section there are 40 children or more. The school plans next year to take 200 students from inside its zone, and 260 students from outside the zone, as long as those from outside pay a sky-high tuition.

When the C parcel changed to a high density residential community, local residents expressed apprehension, since it falls inside the zone for the Number 3 elementary school. “If the Number 3 school is over-enrolled, the educational quality will suffer.” If they build high rise buildings all around the school, it will have a severe effect on the educational environment.

Editors Deng Yulu, Sun Hongli

Wanliu 万柳
Bishuiyuntian 碧水云天
Zhonghe Group 中赫集团
Wanliu Academy 万柳书院
Hummingbird Community 蜂鸟社区
Kangqiao Shuijun,康桥水郡
Wancheng Huafu万城华府
Shuimo Fengjing,水墨风景
Fengshang Guoji 锋尚国际

land king:地王
In the world of public opinion, “land king” is a derogatory term for the process in which a real estate developer beats out all competition by laying down a huge bid to win a desirable parcel of land that has been transferred to state ownership and put up for auction. [“Land king” in practice refers to a plot of land that sold above previous records in the area: there can be a Shanghai land king, a Guangzhou land king, etc.]The government uses the method of inviting bids for land designated for residential use, and when the land ia auctioned off for a sky high price, the net cost of this high price is inevitably passed on in the purchase price of the completed houses or apartments. The government has a monopoly over land, and acts as an oligarch in supplying the market, fostering an irrational competitiveness in those bidders who want the land. Therefore, in regard to the “land king” the public is apprehensive about housing prices repeatedly hitting new highs.
“land kings”:
Source Sankei News(Japan)

From the beginning of this month [2013-09] “land kings” have appeared one after another in various localities, becoming the topic of conversation. Why is this phenomenon occurring now?
The well-known economist Ma Guangyuan, a commentator on Central T.V., analyzed it this way in his blog. ‘The recent appearance of land kings arises out of collaboration between regional governments and real estate developers. Local governments are in debt –the combined amount for the entire country is more than 2 billion yuan. To raise funds to pay off their debt, they put large lots of land up for sale. For their part, the developers, by lavishly playing up the drama of the next, newest, land king, create the expectation that one must “buy now, because if you wait, real estate prices will only go higher,” getting people to rush to purchase.

The real estate developers risk everything, all their assets, in a bid to be land king, but it is the ordinary consumer who in the end makes the gamble worthwhile by paying a high price for residential properties. In this feverish atmosphere, there is a danger. As of 2013-09-11, commercial banks in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are suspending their residential loan operations. Amid a mood of financial instability, the banks are protecting themselves by withdrawing from what they see as their most risky endeavors. If consumers can no longer get loans to pay the high prices for residences, the land king bubble will burst.

School district residences:学区房

School District Residence, as the words imply, is residential property situated near well-known schools. According to the stipulation for compulsory education, every student of the proper age must be admitted to be a school close to where they live, without having to take an exam. On the one hand, the school district residence is a product derived from the real estate market, on the other, a unique phenomenon arising from the conditions of the current educational system. In the face of increasingly fierce competition, households do not wish their child to lose out at the educational starting line, and do not hesitate to spend huge amounts of amount to acquire a residence in the zone of a preferable elementary school. The school district residence is never cheap, and those near desirable schools may be 20% higher in price than comparable properties elsewhere.

Zhongguancun Number 3 elementary school

Zhongguancun Number 3 elementary school was founded in 1981. It is at the very center of the Zhongguancun high tech district, the area with the highest concentration in China of high technology development and human talent. Close to 40% of graduates of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering work in one of the 39 colleges and universities, or one of the 206 research institutes located here. There are 67 nationally established laboratories, and 55 national engineering centers. This area, particularly favored by nature, imbued with a rich atmosphere of learning, forms a superior environment in which to run a school. Bearing the dense, thick cultural essence of learning, carrying forward the transcendent spirit of accumulated scholastic achievement over time: these are the core motive forces of the school.

In the space of 30 years, this school has developed rapidly through advanced concepts based on reform and innovation. Our highly qualified teachers have pursued the best teaching methods, winning praise from all circles of society, and the trust of families. It now has more students than any other elementary school in Beijing. There are two campuses, one in Zhongguancun, one in Wanliu. The Zhongguancun campus is 8666 square meters, total building space is 16000 square meters. There are 64 classes, 3113 students, with 178 people on the teaching and administrative staff. The Wanliu campus is 16000 square meters, with 19500 square meters of building space, 65 classes, 2921 students, 171 teaching and administrative staff. A new campus, based on the 3.0 design concept [konjaku: unknown], is being built in Wanliu, scheduled to be completed in autumn 2014.

Below is a rendering of the new campus, from the website of the American architectural firm which designed it.



Priority Schools:

konjaku: This is an excerpt from a longer article, omitting the history of priority schools prior to the Cultural Revolution. In summary, the article states that the priority school system was first established in 1962, although from 1952 there were “cadres’ schools” which were its antecedent. During the Cultural Revolution priority schools were abolished, but were started again in 1978, at the instigation of Deng Xiaoping.
1978, the education bureau reestablished the priority school system.The trial project was to set up a national system of [better] schools organized as a small pyramid, with funds, teachers, students, organizational methods, etc., funneled upward to the priority school. This formation was to be repeated on the national, provincial, township and county levels, forming multiple layers.

The majority of priority schools are in the cities.A 1982 survey found that 70% were in cities, 28% were in county towns, and 2% were in rural areas.

From 1989-1996, the priority middle schools established by the government benefited from increased supplementary funding, for things like athletic fields and sports facilities. In general, a priority middle school’s funding for extra-curricular facilities is nine times that of ordinary schools.

There is a lingering question as to whether priority schools are actually institutions of privilege for the few. There are facts to answer this question in the affirmative. The priority school, besides other funding, requires entering families to pay the “jointly sponsored cost” [entrance fee/tuition for a “public” school]. The amount of financial support paid by the government and business enterprises is not inconsiderable, and in exchange the schools set aside spaces for certain students. For those with power and influence the cost for the school is taken from public funds, the head of the household does not have to put up any money, the school is well taken care of. For example, in 1996, in a junior class of a priority middle school in Fuzhou, 28 students, 56% of the class, were the children of science and technology [county level] cadres or above.

Besides this, from 2003 to 2004 the scholar Yang Dongping and others conducted a survey in Beijing, Suzhou, Ningbo, and 10 other cities, and found that the children of those in the upper social stratum (high and middle rank officials, science and technology personnel) occupied 60% of priority middle schools. For those of the lower social strata, results were exactly the opposite: their children occupied 60% of ordinary, non-priority schools. If one compares the relative proportion of these two groups in society, the opportunity of the upper strata children to enter priority schools is that much greater.

In 2006, the “Compulsory Education Law” prohibited priority schools, but the law had minuscule effect. The law stated clearly that there must not be priority schools, or tracked classes for gifted students. Although the law was clear, and the education administration specifically demanded it to be followed, many localities in their specific operations disguised what they were doing. They set up “example schools,” “experimental schools” “special aptitude classes,” etc. It was all a fraud. Priority schools, or priority classes, were “that which lost its name, but still exists.”

China Youth Foundation Secretary-General Tu Meng revealed in 2006 that according to the Foundation’s survey, more than 60% of students from rural areas do not go on to high school or college after the compulsory education period ends [at completion of middle school], but either do agricultural work in their home area or go to cities to take temporary jobs. Even the very best students from rural areas have little chance of getting into good schools after graduating middle schools. As the high schools in rural areas are inferior, for many getting a temporary job is actually a better option.

Reference: Education in China: Ideal and Reality, by Yang Dongping, Beijing University Press 2006. 《中国教育公平的理想与现实》,杨东平,北京大学出版社,2006年

The priority school system is irrational. It takes education which should be geared to the needs of all citizens, and divides it into ranks and classes. Educational resources are funneled into priority schools, while ordinary schools face severe shortages. This is taking the money of all taxpayers and using it to create an elite education for the few.





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