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Village#10 Bajia: “In the future it is possible there will be no people who remember…”

December 1, 2016

konjaku: with the tenth village, we move from Chaoyang District to Haidian.

Demolition starts in Haidian district Bajia area

The Haidian district government announced yesterday that the plan for the Bajia area in Dongsheng town is to start up construction on replacement housing on the 20th month of this year. Construction will be completed by 2011-05. Work will formally begin on 07-01 on putting the Bajia area in order.

At present, Haidian district has already began clearing away illegal buildings in the Bajia area. The construction crew is going forward with the effort to clear up and return misappropriated property. They have finished the job of drawing up compensation estimates for 120,000 square meters of village collective property. They have demolished 10,000 square meters of village buildings. They have surveyed 1006 households on their residential status, 92 percent of the total. They have also began to give out basic information and numbers on the replacement housing.

Haidian district Head Chang Linfu said, this was part of the new pilot project to link urban and rural together, following the example of Beiwu village.

Bajia area is located north of the Qinghua Science and Technology Park. Information on the area to be demolished has already been disseminated. The villagers said they do not yet know when they will relocate. If there is any whatever sign of a disturbance related to the move the villagers say they will assemble right away.

Demolition of state owned buildings in South Bajia village has already begun. Yesterday, businesses that rent spaces in roadside buildings were selling off their stock of clothing at bargain prices. They must be out by 08-25. From 09-05, these buildings will no longer have water or electricity. Even though their leases are far from expiring, they have been given no information about compensation.

52 year old Ms Zhao lives in an old house compound of 240 square meters with six family members. She said Dongsheng town and village committee staff have come to investigate, checking that each family member is a registered permanent resident , and measuring their property. They have also been asked their opinion on the size of their replacement residence.

On the left side of the village entrance, there is a two story building. It is obvious that the truncated second story was added recently –a villager said several months ago. Walking through the village, one sees a number of similar buildings. A Mr Meng was reluctant to discuss the reason for this. Instead he responded with a question, “If everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?”

On 07-21, Dongsheng town government and Dongsheng District Office put up notices demanding an end to illegal construction. These notices were posted in many places, but within 15 days they were all torn down. Yesterday, walking around the South Bajia neighborhood, one heard everywhere the sound of chain saws. The village is undergoing a construction boom…

Ms Zhao said she heard from the village production brigade that South Bajia was going to demolished, and the villagers would move into multi-story residential buildings north of North Bajia, and they would acquire urban permanent resident status.

Ms Zhao said her family rents out several rooms for a monthly income of 3000 yuan. She doesn’t have to pay for heat for these rooms. But in the new housing things will change. She will have to pay for heat, and also pay a monthly building maintenance fee. But considering they will become urban residents, Ms Zhao is glad for her grandson’s sake. “He will be able to through the Haidian district educational system, which is very good. He will enjoy the benefit of going to good schools.”

konjaku: instead of “ Bajia village,” this article refers to the Bajia area, which is apparently divided between “South Bajia village” and “North Bajia village” (literally, “front Bajia” and “rear Bajia.”) As becomes clear, South Bajia was demolished, North Bajia remains.

Bajia area 八家地区
South Bajia 前八家村 Qianbajia
North Bajia 后八家村 Houbajia

konjaku: a villager’s perspective, from a blog post:

Beijing! Through a totally unprincipled policy, based on fraud, Bajia is forced into a frenzied demolition


Bajia village is located between the fourth and fifth ring in Haidian district. It is a close neighbor to eight speciality colleges, to Zhongguancun (Beijing’s silicon valley), and to a lively business district. I am a Bajia villager, just one minor, insignificant person. My family has lived in Bajia for generations. This year the Beijing Commission of Housing and Urban Rural Development started up the project to transform urban villages, and Bajia is number 10 on the list.

First, let’s take a look at our compensation rate. (the Commission submitted a compensation plan dated 2010, but they actually gave us rates based on the 2003 standard! This is cheating those above and below! ) The computation goes like this: the compensation rate for homesteads in our area –5625 yuan per square meter, times the area of the individual homestead, plus the replacement price for the demolished building.

Essentially, with an average homestead ares of 150 square meters, this comes to 150 X 5625 =843750 yuan (126,490 dollars by the 2016 exchange rate).

Government officials, what on earth is this? Did you yourselves come up with this?

Now the administration is signalling that starting 05-30 they wil begin forcible demolitions!
Todays consultative conference is to get people to sign agreements on false pretenses!
They say only after you choose your replacement residence, will they discuss your compensation rate. But you must sign the agreement, before you can pick your residence! Is this not signing into a swindle?

When some people requested to see the demolition permit Secretary Cao Guangqing said, “If you sign the agreement, then you can see it.”

Addressing fellow villagers:
If you feel you can sign the agreement, go ahead and sign! I think an ordinary person might take a wait and see attitude. Hold your opinion in private. Wait three ot five days, see if there is room to bargain over the compensation rate.

Take a look at land prices, real estate prices in this area. You really already know. Once the village homesteads are gone, there will be a 27 story building standing in their place. Compare the astronomical profits they will get selling off space in this building, to the meagre compensation we are getting…

konjaku: this is a partial translation. I have left out some of the writer’s advice and appeals to fellow villagers. The text concludes by quoting Qu Qiuba’s version of the Internationale.

eight speciality colleges 八大学院

konjaku: photos of the village committee headquarters (a nice fountain and a parking lot of good looking cars)

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konjaku: six months later…

In South Bajia village they begin forcible demolition of resisting households


South Bajia is something rarely seen in Beijing, a still undeveloped agricultural village of some 1000 households, next to Tsinghua University and eight speciality colleges. Its development prospect is like a goose that can’t stop laying golden eggs. Therefore all the large scale development companies want to get their fingers on the piece of land on which this “urban village” sits. In 2010, a mysterious investor or financial group started to transform Bajia for the ostensible reason of “improving the environment.” It spent six months on “persuasion and education.” Meanwhile, the large development companies were waiting, with their mouths watering. While 80% of the residents signed contracts and moved out, 20% stayed in place. Their houses were like isolated islands standing upright amid a sea of debris (photo).


The two sides were deadlocked for half a year, then today Beijing made its move. A force of more than 100 policemen, public security, and city management personel started to forcibly demolish the two story business building and residence. In the video one can see two large excavators advancing side by side, breaking down the building with devastating force, raising a cloud of dust. Among the group of government employees and leaders standing there, not one holds his nose or moves away. Beijing state employees have this kind of spirit of respecting work, but in actuality it is rare to see them on the job site. At 7 this morning government employees carefully removed the people and the furniture from inside the building. This forcible demolition, “killing one to warn one hundred,” will cause the 200 resisting families dispersed throughout Bajia village (photo) to start to make preparations.


They estimate that one month from now, the curtain will rise on the grand finale of forcibly clearing the whole plot of land next to the world-famous Tsinghua University.


konjaku: speaking of Tsinghua University and its designs on Bajia village land…

Tsinghua University’s preferential housing policy violates the public interest

Tsinghua University President Gu Binglin said, with the one hundredth anniversary of Tsinghua University coming up in 2011, they want to solve the problem of providing housing for new faculty members, because they have a number of newly hired, young faculty members who cannot afford to buy homes. He said, at present, the rate of progress in demolition and relocation of QianBajia and HouBajia was not ideal. Tsinghua’s plan is to build 500,000 square feet of faculty housing.

The other day Tsinghua University announced it was building 1000 units of faculty housing, with 5000 more on the way. This preferential housing policy excited a lot of comment on the internet. The Tsinghua University President proudly stated that “within ten years we will no longer have to worry about a faculty housing problem.” He indicated that, after the one hundred year anniversary, the University will start a large scale housing allotment program. Faculty will only have to pay twenty or thirty percent of the market price of their new housing. The first 1000 residences have already been built and given to faculty members. The plan is for the next 5000 residences to be built in QianBajia and HouBajia.

However, the public has many doubts concerning this: can Qinghua University claim the land of these two villages as its own, and will the University follow the required legal stipulations before building?

“Having a very large purse,” “possessing boldness of vision”– these are representative comments on the web. Taking a quick look, roughly fifty percent admire the move, fifty percent are dissatisfied.

Preferential housing sabotages public benefit

Starting with the third month, new residential developments near Qinghua Garden were priced at 38,000 yuan per square meter (data from Anjuke and Soufang net). Some people who wanted to buy homes heaved a sigh, others were full of discontent. However, the elite of Tsinghua Garden are silent on the matter of the housing problem.

“Qinghua University faculty are not really of the social stratum that qualifies for preferential treatment allowing them to pay less for housing. The government should allot the land for those who are really in need. If the available land in Haidan district decreases after Tsinghua University gets what it wants, then everyone else who wants to purchase residences will face more competition, and higher prices, for fewer housing choices, ” Beijing real estate specialist Chin Bing commented.

According to Chin Bing, unless Qinghua University can prove that the land on which QianBajia and HouBajia sits originally belonged to the University, it will be difficult to remove doubts that they are trying to seize public resources, wealth and benefits belonging to village residents and the public. If the village land is not granted to Qinghua University, it will be turned into market priced housing. The profits from sales of those residences will be income going back to the government, which will in turn benefit the residents.

[The article continues with an analysis of preferential housing in general]

福利房 preferential housing

konjaku: if new residential housing in the area is priced at 38,000 yuan per square meter, one can see how the Bajia villagers may have felt that a compensation rate of 5625 yuan per square meter did not reflect the profits that would ensue when their land was developed. Clearly the land is valuable: developers want it, Tsinghua University wants it.

Website which collects photos of Bajia under demolition




konjaku: In 2015 a person named Ping Jing 冯婧 posted a sensitive portrait of Bajia

Disappearing Bajia and street culture



In modern cities large scale streets are gradually replacing the smaller streets of residential neighborhoods. The large streets are more convenient for cars, but as people drive these streets their only objective is to get to their goal as quickly as possible. Their interest in whatever is along the road they are traversing is considerably reduced.

In the future it is possible there will be no people who remember Bajia. It was once the urban village that in all Beijing was the dirtiest, noisiest, most crowded, most lagging behind the times. Six years ago Bajia was fully of vitality, and now it has been demolished.

Bajia is close to Qinghua University. Most of the village land has been requisitioned to build dormitories for the university.

Starting in 2003, real estate and land prices rose. The cost to requisition land and relocate residents became higher, and the pace of transforming the village slowed. In 2010, the village was finally demolished. In 2010, there were close to 2400 villagers, who chiefly made their living by renting out rooms.

Starting in 1992, a flea market took form in Bajia, followed by three large scale markets. Around 1995, a number of migrants appeared in the village, making their living as gleaners and scrap collectors. After that a number of flea markets were closed down, but the migrant population stayed.

The urban village functions as a bridge or way station for the floating population moving into the rapidly developing modern city. Lodging and essentials for living are inexpensive. The urban village is a buffer zone that serves as a cushion against the contradictions of the larger society. But as the suburban districts urbanize and land prices rise, the urban villages face extinction.

In Beijing, similar to Shenzhen, many artists’ colonies have settled in the urban villages on the outskirts. Bajia is not far from many of these colonies, but it is not so romantic, having embraced a different, grim reality: garbage.

Bajia is well known as a garbage reclamation site. Bajia is divided into Qian (front) Bajia to the south and Hou (rear) Bajia to the north. In South Bajia the majority of the gleaners make their living on any kind of garbage, but North Bajia specializes in dismantling and recycling used electronic products.

Bajia is close to Zhongguancun (Beijing’s silicon valley), it is known as the “electronic refuse transfer station. It collects most of Beijing’s discarded electronics. As one person said, “because Zhongguancun sells so many computers, we have so many old computers to disassemble.”

These garbage recyclers make an enormous contribution. Six years ago, from the window of my apartment, I looked down on an open space of refuse heaps surrounded by various tall buildings. People worked in this area, constantly moving about from morning to night, producing a “paper and cardboard mountain” a “plastics mountain” a “wooden boards mountain.” For me this enormous scene was surrealistic.


Using three wheeled pedicabs, these people scoured the imperial capital, collecting anything reusable from what had been cast aside. But because the refuse collection lacked management, it created environmental problems. There was garbage piled on the sides of roads, garbage inside people’s household compounds, garbage piled up everywhere. Some people believe this had an influence on the city’s actions. In the past people proposed organizing all the gleaners into one cooperative.

I have noticed the different characteristics of each neighborhood.
From Heqing Road to Wudaokou district, there is lots of lush greenery and a wide sidewalk, but very few people or cars. No small venders set up here, since there are so few people. The bicycle lanes have been converted to parking lots. The area seems desolate, not safe to walk in at night.

Along Lindabei Road up to Shuangqing Road, there are residential buildings, with small venders set up on the sidewalk. They can take advantage of the shade cast by the trees planted there, but the streets are only lively in the afternoon.

Xueyuan Road is a more typical Beijing city street. There are commuter buses, bicycle lanes, pedestrian overpasses, and many hurrying pedestrians. There are occasionally small venders near bus stops and road intersections, but they have to be careful to avoid the surprise attacks of city management personnel.

Shuangqing Road is a special case. It is the main street of Bajia, an old street with a special meaning. It is the stage upon which one can see the development of the city and its transformation.

Because Bajia is close to Qinghua University and other colleges, Qinghua Science and Technology Park, Zhongguancun, the Wudaokou neighborhood ( an area with many international students and Koreans), there are many university students, professors, IT white collar workers, and all sorts of temporary workers. In 2009 I rented a three room apartment with four just graduated college students and one graduate student who had just gotten employment.


Differences in income came from the diversity in the urban space. Along Shuangqing Road one can see the social stratum in action. There are two groups. One is the “northern floaters” (college graduates looking for jobs in the tech field) who live in the east side residential district. Based on their knowledge and skill levels they anticipate getting good jobs, as long as they make a great effort.
The other group lives in one story houses on the west side. The majority are gleaners, but some are peasants who have come from elsewhere to do industrial work. They are physical laborers who, besides supporting themselves, must save money to send back to their families in their hometowns. Although they live in the big city, as manual laborers they don’t have many chances to go and find out about the city they live in. In Bajia there are even some rental rooms that have no exposure to sunlight. Since the laborers who rent them leave before dawn and return after nightfall, there is no reason when building the room to go through the extra expense to make sure it gets sunlight — that is an unnecessary luxury.

Shuangqing Road is the busiest street I have seen in Beijing. On its east side are high rise buildings, the result of city planning, consisting of residential towers, a restaurant, and a research institute. On the west side are one story houses. When I first arrived in Bajia, the sidewalk of Shuangqing Road was piled with old household furniture. This 100 meter strip of sidewalk had become a small vender’s showcase, and beside that there was an amazing amount of piles of various types of old clothes, wastepaper, plastic pet bottles, etc.

In the afternoon, the gleaners return, and the sidewalk become more chaotic, even dangerous. Pedestrians squeeze through the narrow space left in this mix of three wheeled pedicabs, bicycles, electric motor scooters, carts, trucks, and passenger cars. At the south end of Shuangqing Road there is a train crossing, but it is at a four way intersection, causing huge traffic jams everyday. The ordinary taxi driver is reluctant to even come to Bajia.

The small stores and shops that line Shuangqing Road are social meeting places, brimming with vitality. A narrow and small grocery store is completely filled with items aimed at the floating population. Small restaurants offer different regional foods to satisfy the migrants who want to eat their hometown cuisine. There are hair salons, car repair shops, hardware stores. When I lived there, I bought most of my necessities at the small grocery store, because its prices were half that of a regular supermarket, or even less.

Since members of the floating population do not live here for a long time, they do not see the need to purchase better quality goods. This habit spurs the prosperity of the small stores.

In the case of small stores like the grocery store, the store is at the front, while the interior consists of a stock storeroom and the owner’s living quarters. The owner does not have to rent another place to live, and can do business late into the night. These kind of compact city spaces have been mentioned in the past by other urban researchers, This type of space in which many different functions and social activities are mixed together under one roof, is a distinguishing feature of urban villages. But behind the flourishing of these small stores, there is fierce competition. There is always some store undergoing renovation, to try and edge out the others. Even after the demolition started, businesses felt the need to collect profits right up to the end: it was possible to still eat a meal in a restaurant, even though that restaurant was slated to be demolished the next morning.

Every afternoon, stalls selling vegetables, fruits, and sundries take over half the road. The vegetable sellers leave after they have sold all their stock. They use three wheeled flat bottomed carts to haul their goods. A piece of cloth spread out on the ground constitutes their stalls. The vegetables they sell are for the most part what is left over from other markets in Beijing. The small vendors who live in this area manage to collect this produce from other markets at the point they are closing up, so they are able to sell at a reduced price. Doing this everyday they accumulate a small pile of money.

Those who sell fruit sell out of open trucks. They are there everyday, staying until late at night, because those who come home on commuter buses after work must walk along the street and pass by them on the way home. It is tempting to buy fresh fruit when a person is just a few steps from home. Because there are no street lights, the venders set up their own lights to illuminate their fruit. Their lights also illuminate three wheeled pedicabs loaded with refuse as they go by, and passersby longing to get home to a warm bed. The trucks form a neat and tidy line, and those who pass by are treated to what amounts to a fashion parade of fruit.


The Bajia night market are well known. The night market is mainly around the intersection of Shuangqing Road and Lindabei Road, which is also the only way to enter into Bajia. There is another night market in the vicinity of the Wudong light rail station. This one sells clothes and small items. There are many roving singers and beggars. Young people and foreigners often stroll through this market for diversion. The Bajia night market consists of open air food stalls, selling malatang (skewered items cooked in a spicy broth), barbequed meats, and all kinds of snacks. Most of those walking through it are Bajia residents. This seems to be the place local people go to to fill their bellies.


Bajia’s neighborhood streets were always chaotic, but unlike other neighborhoods in the vicinity, they did not close down at night and become ghost towns. The continual vitality caused people to feel secure. No matter what time of night, there was always someone walking by, people hurrying home. Or, a pedicab loaded with goods going by, some small venders set up on a corner. These people watched over the neighborhood.

Once these neighborhood streets are looked at merely as a means for cars to get somewhere, the criteria for them is whether they allow an unobstructed passage or not, whether the flow of people and traffic is bunching up or not. The main issue becomes how much they benefit the overall traffic plan. As the streets are transformed for cars, peoples’ desire for cars becomes greater. It is like straightening out a river for the purpose of flood control. The river loses its ability to retain water, and eventually dries up.

In the eyes of some cultural critics, Shuangqing Road is the type of neighborhood street which should be preserved. However, it is difficult for such streets to escape extinction. Shuangqing Road is very narrow. Buses can only go through it single file. Small venders occupy about one quarter of the road. People pass by after work pushing their bicycles, their eyes on the vegetables and other things for sale, their ears assaulted hy the venders’ cries.

This type of street provides a stable space for small venders, who come back day after day instead of constantly moving to different locations. People like to walk around and buy small things, inexpensive fresh produce, and they like to joke with the venders. They feel assured that the same venders will be there everyday, it creates a distinctive social space.

In 2010 ground was broken for replacement housing for Bajia residents. Some residents were going to move into a development north of the village, while other residents were allotted residences further away. When I went to the demolition site to take photos, I met an old couple who had nothing except a labrador dog which they were pulling. They said, the dog had one day wandered into their household compound and had lived with them ever since. They had a rooftop garden where they grew vegetables, from which they could look out on the whole village. Today, I do not know where this couple has moved to, or whether they still cherish their memories of the old Bajia.


A cultural critic might say that behind the chaotic spaces, there lies a mysterious order. But a certain aspect that everyone can see is indeed ugly and disorderly. To pretend there is a perfect order, is to turn a blind eye to the actual order which is in the process of struggling to come into existence. Which is the chaos, and which is the order, has not been fully researched. People frequently judge by appearances only. Urban culture is not necessarily tolerant of emerging new forms and diversity, rather it urgently decks itself in the brightest colors at the expense of anything else.

The Bajia I remember has now disappeared. That Bajia hid into itself the waste of the large city. I witnessed in it the not entirely cordial relationship between the floating population and the modern consumer city, along with other uneasily co-existing interest groups. I have written this to remember Bajia as it once existed.

konjaku: this article describes former Bajia residents who somehow did not get on board with the official relocation project and ended up in a nearby village, where they began waiting for compensation all over again.

Nowadays, going out from Qinghua University northeast gate, there is a broad, flat piece of land with four rows of parked cars. However, the old people in Qinghua Park know that four years ago, that here there was a meandering path here that led to Bajia village.

In the plan for Qinghua University, the main area of the campus was fixed in advance. But there was one piece of Qinghua University land that for many years was not officially included in the plan. It was like a wedge nailed into the otherwise orderly plan, like psoriasis on a beautiful scalp. 2009-11, a letter signed by a “Qinghua University Professor” written to the Beijing planning committee stated that the line of sight of Qinghua people leads directly to something that has been pasted with a negative label, namely, an “urban village.”

The influence of Bajia: jobless vagrants, garbage, waste water, and musky coal dust, seeped into the area around Qinghua University and Beijing Forestry College. For people in that area, these were their only impressions of Bajia. Household heads did not want their children anywhere near what they considered to be a “red light district.” Bajia was like a frenetic compressed space in the city, a narrow gap in which it was difficult even to breathe.

In 2010, when Beijing city issued its list of fifty focal-point urban villages, there was the name, Bajia. Very quickly, in the roar of bulldozers and excavators, Bajia was razed to the ground. This piece of land was incorporated back into Qinghua University, just before its one hundred year anniversary.

With a compensation of 5625 yuan per square meter, the residents separated from the rubble that had once been their village. What has happened to the former residents?

Originally, many Bajia residents were initially siphoned into to Shucun (Tree Village).

If you ride the Number 4 bus out of Qinghua University West gate, going northward five stops you reach a sign that says, “Shucun east entrance.” As you approach the entrance, there is a bumpy and uneven sandstone road which many vehicles are making their way. Fruit peels, plastic bags, even dead kittens float in a stream of waste water that washes over the road surface.

Every day life goes on in this kind of environment, but old Mr Wang is unwilling to let anyone use the term “slum” to describe Shucun. “In this village there are plenty of people with money. They can afford to rent rooms here. These days, how many people can say that?”

A house, that is the issue Mr Wang agonizes over. Buying a car is no problem, but buying a house is different. He sighed, and explained.

Those [from Bajia] who were able to move out of this village, have all moved away. Those of us who remain behind ‘have to overcome all our difficulties.’ I stay here to look after the house we were given.” Mr Wang’s daughters have already moved out of Shucun into a multi-story residential building, yet Mr Wang and his wife are sticking with the old house they have here. They spend every day walking aimlessly in circles around Shucun, like stray dogs.

There are many people here like the Wang’s, who have stayed behind to take care of the old houses they are in. Another is a retired army officer who is in a 200 square meter house, just waiting for it to be demolished. He grumbled to this reporter, “They said it would be in the third month, but they didn’t say the third month of what year. I don’t know if I have to wait till next year or not.”

In the eyes of Beijingers, “waiting” is not the only strategy for the maximum compensation amount possible. As they anticipate that day in the future when their property is requisitioned, they unceasingly pursue ways to strengthen their “holdings.”

Originally Shucun was composed of one story houses, but now there are many with three stories. A road that was once wide enough for one car to pass through, is now only wide enough for one pedestrian to walk through. Walking into the village, the road is densely packed with stores and houses of wildly different sizes which jut out unevenly. About half of the built-on houses use corrugated iron sheeting for the upper floors. It sticks out several square meters more than normal. Those who have added on to their houses leave piles of their extra material wherever they please. At noon smoke seeps out from the crudely constructed iron siding. The smell of cooking food and the smell of dust stirred up by passing cars mingles together, permeating this village that is like a labyrinth.

“Right now there is no administration, and households have the last word over their own affairs.” Referring to the lack of action by the village committee and the town government in the village , villager Liu Xiuzhen’s voice rose with indignation. “I married into this village more than 50 years ago,and Shucun has always been like this. Old people say, the demolition and relocation is coming, and all they think about is the surface area of their homes. They build on, and now the road is so narrow one can only see a strip of sky!” she continued grumbling.

Every time it rains, people have to endure the stench of the sewers overflowing and flowing over the streets. Every time there is a strong wind, people’s clothes become permeated with dust. But, thinking of a generous compensation fund waiting for them, they persist in staying on in this garbage heap of a village.

Ten years ago, there was a rumor that Shucun was about to be demolished. Just as today, nothing happened. Villager Chen Baoshan said, because the leaders did not seize the opportunity, the village was not transformed, and today there is not a single industry in the village. Mr Bai, the ombudsman for the village, said they have been waiting for the village committee to tackle the village problems. But because the date for impending demolition has not been decided, the
village committee is reluctant to spend money and energy on something which is soon to disappear.

Those who are expanding their property as they wait for demolition and relocation compensation are not by any means alone in Shucun. There are more than 1500 migrants crowding into the village. Compared with the the 1190 households in the village, this is a ratio of 10:1.

In Mr Wang’s eyes, these migrants have “plenty of money” because they are able rent rooms in the expanded properties of the villagers. He thinks they are more wealthy than the village residents.

One such person, Lei Ming (an alias) said: “When I was earning wages I made 20,000 a month or more. Even though I earned this much I was not able to buy a residence in a multi-story building. When I first left the countryside, with my wages I could have paid one month’s mortgage on a multi-story building with 1800 yuan left over, but in my hometown, I could have bought a house just with the one month’s wages. What is so great about multi-story buildings? As one man, it is not a worthwhile reward for all my labor.”

Lei Ming, 32 years old, from a village in Sichuan, is one of those migrants whom Mr Wang considers to be rich. “One who rushes to Beijing,” “Hungry and ignorant,” “Talking big, acting forceful” “Lost all his money in a business venture,” these phrases summarize Lei Ming’s life so far.

Lei Ming came to Beijing in 2001. He did a stint with Public Security, was a temporary worker, engaged in pyramid schemes, marketing, worked for so many different businesses he can’t name them all. In 2003 during the SARS outbreak, Lei Ming was unemployed. He was reduced to asking his nephew for a book of supermarket gift coupons, which he used to buy instant noodles. This was what he lived off of then.

But he managed to live through those days of hardship , and three years later Lei Ming teamed up with another person to sell homes. This was his “talking big, acting forceful” period. Every day he got 30 yuan, not enough to eat a meal in a restaurant. But he gradually accumulated experience on how to sell homes, and began selling homes himself. “It was a real struggle. On the computer, on the phone, each home took a lot of work.” However Beijing was getting ready for the Olympics, and a lot of houses starting selling. That was when Lei Ming started to make 20,000 yuan a month.

After the Olympics, the housing market started to slip, and Lei Ming lost faith in it. He invested in a business venture, and lost all the money he had earned when it failed. “I was young and inexperienced, I went over my head.” Ever since he “rushed into Beijing” years ago he has always lived in Shucun, because here rents are cheap.

Like Lei Ming, there is a continual flood of new immigrants trying to make a go of it in Beijing, coming into Shucun. He Yu (alias) who came a year ago, is one of those. “We are all fellow villagers from Chongqing, we rely on people we know that are already here to introduce us to employers who will hire us for temporary work.” He said, “Beijing is a place I have always yearned to come to.” But since he came here, if things go well he earns 2000 yuan a month, if not so well, 1000 yuan. Subtracting his rent, there is not enough left to pay for meals.

These migrants are not like those “waiting for demolition.” Once Shucun is demolished, it just means they will have to drift elsewhere. “We will be like duckweed floating on the sea, not knowing where the current will carry us.”

Though no one knows when Shucun will be demolished, the transformation of urban villages in Beijing is already an old topic. A 2012 article in the Beijing Daily (Beijing Ribao) on the 50 listed up villages described the hundreds of thousands migrants coming to Beijing, living their dreams in these urban villages, which the article called “a scar on the face of Beijing.”

The first move to uncover the scar began ten years ago. At that time, on the one hand the urban villages were growing bigger, and on the other hand Beijing was beginning a sustained effort to develop after succeeding in its bid for the Olympics. In preparation for the Olympics, Beijing turned toward becoming an “international city,” and this was the impetus to transform the urban villages.

According to data collected in 2002, there were 332 urban villages in Beijing, occupying 17 square kilometers, with a population of more than one million. In 2004, the movement to uncover and fix the scar began in the area designated as the Olympics zone.

The plan was to transform the 171 urban villages that were located inside the fourth ring before the Olympics. After the Olympics, Beijing would go on to deal with 61 villages located outside the fourth ring. In time, all the urban villages located inside the fifth ring disappeared. But Shucun, which is right on the line, on the edge of the fifth ring, is in an exceedingly awkward position: is it in the fifth ring, or just outside of it? Is it going to be transformed, or is nothing going to happen?The name Shucun does not appear in the list of 171 villages, nor among the 61.

Tangjialing is a typical case of an urban village which has been demolished. After it was transformed, the former residents poured into neighboring villages. Shigezhuang, Xibanbidian, Dongbanbidian — these villages gradually filled up, and turned into a new cycle of urban villages.

“The decline of rural areas and villages is being expedited. They are being rushed to adopt urban form, but it seems like one gigantic sham.” This is the opinion of scholar Liang Hong, author of the book, In China there is a Village called Liangzhuang (an account of the urbanization of Liangzhuang, a village in Henan). She believes the urban villages are only able to make superficial changes in the process toward urbanization. They just get encircled by reinforced concrete walls.

Those who are waiting in Shucun, what course should they follow?

树村 Shucun
城中村 urban village
唐家岭 Tangjialing
史各庄、西半壁店、东半壁店 Shigezhuang, Xibanbidian, Dongbanbidian –
梁鸿 Liang Hong
《中国在梁庄》 In China there is a Village called Liangzhuang


konjaku: as we see from this 2015 article, North Bajia was not demolished, and is still evoked as a symbol of electronic parts recycling in Beijing.

Uniformed soldiers [the official way] or junk kings [the unofficial way]: electronic parts recycling will take which course?

We seldom think about that happens to electronic goods after they are used up. This reporter asked twenty community residents in Chaoyang what they considered most important: the price of recycling electronics, the convenience, or environment concerns. Price was number one, followed by convenience. Few mentioned the environment.

In the 7th month of this year, Reuters published a photo of “the number one town involved in eletrconics recycling, ” Guiyu town in Shantou, Guangdong. In Guiyu they use archaic methods to dismantle electronic parts, such as burning wires and other plastics to expose the metal inside. Seeing this unfold before their eyes, people are thinking how this can be changed. An investigation by Sun Yat-sen University found that as far back as the ‘90s, the ground water in Guiyu was seriously contaminated, unfit to drink.

[konjaku: see

In Beijing we have no lack of places similar to Guiyu. Perhaps the most well known one is HouBajia. Five kilometers from Zhongguancun (Beijing’s silicone valley), just north of the intersection of Yuequan Road and Shuangqing Road. Here there is a clear distinction between the two sides of the road. On the west side there are tall residential buildings, a school and a park, both neat and tidy. On the east side of the road there is a strip of fencing several hundred meters long enclosing refuse dumps. This is HouBajia.

In 2009, China Youth Report did a report on HouBajia,. At the time, electronic recycling was flourishing. “Every family has stored up 40 to 50 thousand yuan.” Six years later the situation is not the same. Along the strip of road there are six or seven collection sites, each run by several households cooperatively. At any time there are people with pedicabs loaded with refuse going from collection site to collection site, seeking to unload their cargo.

This reporter found that there was only one specialized collection site left, belonging to the household of Liu Yue. There was a sign posted at the entrance, “Recycling computers” but it was tottering in the wind. It began to drizzle, and Liu Yue came rushing out of her household compound, and dragged an old computer and a water purifier at the entrance under a shelter out of the rain.


A pedicab stopped, and the driver tried to get Liu Yue to buy the old refrigerator he had salvaged. When she heard the price, she shook her head. She said that she is not buying anything new. Once she finishes the jobs she has on hand, she intends to stop operating.

HouBajia started as an electronics recycling site after 2000, when a group of people came here from Xinyang in Henan province. They made a living dismantling electronic goods, and inspired others around to do the same.

Liu Yue started in this line of work five years ago, taking in mainly computers and cellphones. Until 2014, business was good. After the 2015 Spring Festival, the electronics recycling market went into a precipitous decline, prices tumbled four or five times below what they were. “After celebrating the new year, I began to suffer losses, by the 6th month of the year I was down 10 to 20 thousand yuan.” She said, before it used to be easier to extract whole component parts, like disc drives, and sell these individually. But now, prices have fallen, and everything is bought by the kilogram, “just the same as plastic.”


Liu Yue said, last year there were still many recyclers operating in the village. However, when prices fell they turned to other businesses. Liu Yue does not understand how electronic recycling will continue without small venders like her. “If we stop operating, how are all the piles of electronic waste in Beijing city going to be disposed of?

In fact, there are a number of residential districts, which have already started a program for recycling objects by type, including a specific barrel in which to put electronic appliances. They have established a standard to separate and recycle newspaper, plastic, glass, metal, fabric, cans, rubber, wood, and photo-sensitive selenium in printer drums. As for other discarded electronic products, Beijing city has not yet produced standards for them, in terms of recycling or disposing.

When this reporter was interviewing community residents, a Ms Zhang said, “When I have a used appliance I want to get rid of, whether it is a washing machine, a t.v., or a refrigerator, my first choice is to sell it to a flea market, or to one of those venders who makes the rounds of streets and alleyways offering to buy used appliances. If it’s something that just can’t be sold, I leave it downstairs where the building trash bins are, in order that a refuse collector can take it away.”

Twenty-something Xiao Zhang said, what worries her most is cell phones. “The typical life of a cell phone is two years. Even if a person’s phone is still working fine, they want to keep up with the newest models. In our home, when I am done with a cell phone I can give it to my Mom or Dad, and they will use it. If a phone breaks we don’t try and sell it, it just lies around the house, since they don’t take up any space. I have one or two cell phones that have been in our house for three years.”

It seems that most people have little problem disposing of large items, but feel embarrassed about small items. Huang Ling, a college student, has sometimes to replace the litium battery to his electric scale and calculator, but his residential area does not have a designated battery disposal site. To go all over searching for a disposal box is too troublesome. After leaving them in his home for several days, he ends up putting them in the regular trash.

Unfortunately, no matter what the current market price is, people prefer to sell their used electrical appliances at the highest price they can get to peddlers or small scale recycling companies. It is difficult for legitimate recycling companies to capture a share of the market.


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