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Beijing: drive out the low-end population

February 25, 2015

konjaku: “The [Tongzhou education commission] official said, this is the overall trend Beijing is following. They want the low-end masses and the [wholesale] markets to be driven out of Beijing.” (2014-05-30, previous post). Keeping the children of non-permanent residents from being admitted to public schools may indeed be part of larger strategy to get the “low-end population” to leave.

In 2013-12, as the following article shows, officials were starting to discuss keeping low-end industries and businesses from further entering into Beijing. By 2014, this had hardened into a policy of driving out the wholesale markets as a way of making those who depend on those markets to follow after them.

People’s Congress Representatives: Beijing’s low-end masses are too many, even breathable air is in short supply

Representatives propose prohibiting low-end industries from entering Beijing, Vice-Mayor Chen Gang says they must readjust the development concept

People’s Congress representative Li Qijun said, in Beijing the large-scale city urban disease is very severe, the ecosystem is strained to the limit. Therefore Beijing should relieve the population density, raise the threshold for low end industries, and prohibit any more from entering Beijing. Beijing vice-mayor Chen Gang said, some low-end service and manufacturing industries attract large quantities of people to come to Beijing for work, causing even the breathable air to be be in short supply, extravagantly used up.

Representative Li Qijun said, Beijing should draft a detailed account of the negative aspects of certain industries, and prohibit those low-end industries from entering Beijing. At the same time, they need to apply standards to small barber shops, small refuse collecting businesses, underground apartments, simply constructed homes, and group rentals. The government must take the initiative to enhance quality and control, in other words, they must use market forces to manage the population.

Representative Wang Weiping said that relieving the population problem in the center city is a difficult problem.In Dongcheng, there is the Tianyi [heaven’s will]small goods market, but there are 44 more markets just like it. In Xicheng district there are 90 such markets, with a population of 20,000. In these market areas in the central districts, there is the low-end population that has come to work, but which does not match well with the functioning of the center of one of the world’s major metrapolises. Many residents report that the contrast is too stark.

Tianyi market photos:

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“With great difficulty, to relieve population congestion, the Dongcheng and Xicheng district governments managed to move out some 10,000 registered permanent residents, but 20,000 of the low-end working population flooded in instead. In the market areas there is an average of 6 people in every stall.” Wang Weiping said several times fires had broken out in the rear of the Tianyi market, and fire trucks are unable to get in. Whenever people live close together with commodities, in the form of stores or factories, there is increased danger of fires, and also public security problems.

Beijing deputy mayor Chen Gang said, Beijing’s current stage of development is full of contradictions, it requires more meticulous management. Underlying the various contradictions is the pressure of the population on environment and resources. The intensity and rapidity of development in Beijing, the intensity and rapidity of urbanization, is unparalleled in the world. London, at the point of its most rapid expansion, increased by 70,000 people a year, New York by 100,000, Tokyo by 200,000. But Beijing adds 60 to 700,000 a year. If this rate of increase continues, in less than 10 years, there will be enough people for a whole new Beijing. Why do so many come here? The low-end service and manufacturing jobs draw people here.

“Suddenly we have become aware that everything is in short supply, even air to breathe. Urban life has overnight become difficult.” Chen Gang believes that the concept of development has to be readjusted. Instead of increasing speed to reach GDP targets, the government should go back to its starting point and pause for restructuring, to transform from low to high-end industries. This is an important move to break open the stalemate of population versus the available resources and environmental capacity.

konjaku: a rebuttal to the article above

Zheng Xinye: Beijing driving away the low-end population does harm rather than good

A policy to regulate and control the low-end population not only does nothing to alleviate Beijings urban disease, but instead causes endless problems for city development

Caixin reporter Lan Fan, 2014-02-17

In 2013, Beijing’s population total had reached 21,150,000. 8 million of these were non-permanent residents,a population composed of “people from another place.”

Confronting the excessive over-population and scarcity of resources, Beijing city has put forth a new round of policies aimed at regulating the population. Beijing’s lofty approach is to “use industry types to control population.” The government hopes to drive out of the city the low-end industries: such as clothing, building materials, and the wholesale markets of cheap dry goods.By doing this they hope to also drive out the low-end masses who work in and are attached to these industries, and who concentrate in certain areas.

It has always been the low income laborers who have borne the brunt of population control efforts in Beijing. Unable to become permanent residents, they have been excludedall this time from the public benefits system. When urban villages, or villages on the city periphery have been cleaned up or demolished, they have been the ones driven out, to a further edge of the periphery, or even underground.

Renmin University professor Zheng Xinye, in a visit from this reporter, pointed out that it is not the low-end population which is the cause of the scarcity of resources, nor or they the cause of over-crowding. Driving out the low-end population will not cure Beijing’s urban disease. Just what kind of effect to these policies have on city development?

Caixin: This time Beijing is turning to economical methods in its population control efforts,under the idea that expelling low-end industries will necessarily drive out the low-end population that depends upon them for its livelihood. Is this idea correct or not?

Zheng Xinye: to relocate the low-end industries by administrative fiat, is actually to destroy the economic structure of the city.

The low end industries exist where they are because they are filling a demand. If Beijing drives out the clothing markets, and the building materials market, the high-end industries will not be able to fill the vacancy and meet the demand, because the profit margins in these industries is quite low. If Beijing forcibly eliminates the supply of low-end products, it is the average, ordinary person who relies on these products who will suffer. Their lives will become much less convenient.

Caixin: but the officials believe that, if the needs of urban residents can be elevated to a higher level, the suppliers can also be raised to a more advanced level. If you tear down the vegetable market, you can replace it with a supermarket.If you move away the clothing wholesale markets clustered near the Beijing Zoo, you can replace these with Taobao [online shopping website similar to Amazon or eBay,

Zheng Xinye: if you relocate the clothing and small goods wholesale markets outside the city, their place can partially be filled by electronic shopping. But when things are bought on the net who delivers them by express delivery, are these not members of the “low-end population?” Riding electric motor scooters to deliver goods, isn’t this likely to create more pollution and over-crowding? Instead of several young women riding the subway together to the Beijing zoo exit to buy clothes, now each will purchase their items online. Then each of those items will have to be separately wrapped and packaged, and delivered by a different person to a different home address. The use of energy and wear and tear involved in the circulation of materials and traffic, will therefore not decrease because the wholesale markets have been moved, it may even increase. This will simply be replacing one form of “low-end” with another form of “low-end.”

Let us say you tear down the vegetable market, expecting residents to now go shopping at a nearby supermarket. But at the supermarket prices are higher, it is further away. As the supermarket fulfills the demand of shoppers, demand itself expands. However, in the end this is nothing more than replacing one individual entrepreneur in the vegetable market [one member of the low-end population] with one employee [another member of the low-end population] inside the expanded supermarket.

Policies that attack the so-called low-end, cause a chain reaction that often does damage to the goals of other policies. For instance, if you tidy up the bicycle repair shops that spill out onto the sidewalks and streets, a typical example of a low-end industry, then where do bicycle riders go to get their bikes fixed? If they can’t fix their bikes, they are forced to drive cars or squeeze onto public transportation, which conflicts with the government’s need to reduce air pollution, and reduce street motor vehicle traffic.

Caixin: Repelling the low-end labor force will definitely improve city management and lower net costs. In the end will this idea help the city go up to a higher level, or will it inhibit its vitality?

Zheng Xinye: Driving out the lower-end population will create an unholy mess! It will completely break apart the employment structure, which is based on the division of labor in society, of each person getting to work at the task at which they most excel. The city is a concentrated realization of the social distribution of labor on a large scale, improving the efficacy of society as a whole. If you drive out the low-end people, then the so-called “high-end” people will have to spend a lot of time doing tasks they do not excel at.

Regarding the competitive power of Beijing, in terms of the whole nation, and in terms of the whole world, the most important factor comes down to one thing: culture. Here we have the most outstanding professors, doctors, athletes, reporters, and artists. If we smash the employment structure, we make these professors and artists spend much of their time at sweeping and sanitation, preparing their own meals. Those who are the backbone of the competitive power of Beijing, will have less time for their own work. Medical treatment, research, art works, literature, education, will all suffer. The city’s economy will wither, its vitality will disappear.

Of course, the so-called high-end people will continue to need the services of the low-end population, and the city will be unable to do without them. But the process of hiring workers from outside will raise costs. Employers will find themselves having to pay workers higher salaries. With the rise of net costs, competitiveness will diminish.

Going a step further, Beijing’s competitive edge has an influence on the whole nation. If medical treatment, education, media, athletics, and art all suffer a loss of productivity, this will effect both industries and consumers in other regions of the country.

Reporter’s conclusion: in the city demand for goods and services operates on different levels, for each level there is an appropriate work force. Even if Beijing seeks to enhance itself with high-end industries, those in these high-end industries will still need services from the low-end labor force, and the low-end laborers will also have needs that are satisfied by low-end industries [such as wholesale clothing marts]. Forcibly driving out the low-end industries and low-end population, will artificially raise city operating costs, and in the end it will lose competitive power.

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