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Village # 11: Zhongwu

October 17, 2017

konjaku: Zhongwu in the Haidian district is very close to Beiwu, which is one of two villages in the pilot project which led to the renovation of the 50 villages. It is similar in situation, and in geography. As in Beiwu, the villagers have found that they must rent rooms to migrants because the government has already rented out most of the village land, and there are no other sources of income. Although Zhongwu villagers are apparently also getting a satisfactory compensation, and moving to newly-built housing near the village site, they are, as in Beiwu, worried about how they will live in the future, and unsure whether they will be allowed to transfer to an urban household registry, which would make them eligible for better social security and other benefits. Also, because the villages are both along the road which leads to the Summer Palace and other resort spots, their existence draws notice.

“Because the motorcades of the high-level leaders pass by Beiwu [on the way to the Summer Palace]…anything which is dirty and disorderly along this road draws high level attention. Therefore the renovation of Beiwu was classified as a project focal point.”

The Beiwu village site after demolition. The pagoda on Jade Spring Hill is in the distance. (photo by “Zhongguancun”)


Zhongwu Park, built on the demolished Zhongwu village site. Jade Spring Hill on the horizon.


Zhongwu village before demolition (photos by “Zhongguancun”):




A wall at Zhongwu village advertising the creation of the green zone in Haidian (photo by “Zhongguancun”)



The article giving the fundamental details about Beiwu and the urban-rural unification plan, first published in Caixin magazine, is here:

Thirteen follow-up posts on Beiwu can be accessed by clicking on July 2012 and August 2012 in Archives.

Quotes from the Caixin article:

“The Beiwu model is the plan we cannot help but select” — “We ourselves move out of our homes, we ourselves then build the new buildings, manage, and control the capital fund.” The villagers through their collectively held land participate in the urbanization process.

According to the plan, the majority of the original Beiwu village was to be turned into Beiwu Park. Opposite the park, the new housing units would be built for the dislocated villagers, with water and gas lines installed. Four roads would circle the periphery of the development. Once the buildings were completed, a pre-school, medical service center, and a supermarket would be constructed.
It happened very quickly. In March (2010), the 700 households of Beiwu village moved to the Beiwu Jiayuan (“Beiwu Excellent Garden”), a development of just- completed six-story housing complexes.”

Zhongwu 中坞
Beiwu 北坞

I found no accounts of the events surrounding the demolition of Zhongwu village and relocation of the villagers. The following article goes into some depth on the Zhongwu situation before the demolition has begun. It expresses some tension with the “Beiwu model” of giving the villagers autonomy and shareholder rights over profits from developments built on their land.
Reporter Han Xue


In the beginning of the third month, the news came from the government of Beijing’s Haidian district that twenty villages within the urban-rural unification zone would be demolished and transformed in 2010. This will directly influence 29,000 residents and 210,000 migrants. Within two or three years, all the illegal buildings in the villages around Zhongguocun will disappear, to be replaced by orderly multi-storied buildings and areas of green space, all done according to plan. One such project, the Beiwu village experiment, which moved out the residents and transformed the urban-rural zone, has in recent years received a lot of attention from the public and the media.

The Haidian government states that in transforming the 20 villages they will draw lessons from the Beiwu experience, according to the policy of “the government leads, but the farmers are the main part” [farmers given some autonomy], which will form a new principle of moving forward. However, they will not indiscriminately copy the Beiwu plan, but on the basis of the specific situation of each village, will take a “one village, one policy” approach. Does the “Beiwu model” realistically resolve the fundamental difficulties of urban-rural unification, or does it magnify the many contradictions? Can it extend universally to every possible case? As the “house purchase price” becomes an issue foremost in people’s minds, it is natural that Zhongwu, because it is less than one hundred meters away from Beiwu, will bear particularly intense scrutiny.

“This is will be a civilized demolition and relocation”

“The Beiwu operation went quite well. Before they began the demolition of the village, the city government broke ground on construction of the replacement housing, forty-two six-story buildings complete with elevators, calming the fears of the villagers. At the same time they let the villagers themselves manage and supervise the process, which was a step forward to a civilized demolition and relocation.” Sixty-six year-old Mr Zhang (alias), a Zhongwu villager said, “The provincialism of people here is very strong. It is very difficult for them to part from their native land. The Beiwu experiment was an effort to preserve social harmony and stability. Although Beiwu and Zhongwu are different, I hope the outcome will be like Beiwu, a civilized process without violence.”

Since Mr Zhang said Beiwu and Zhingwu were different, this reporter went to investigate. Although the schedule for demolition of the village and relocation of the residents had been publicly released several years ago, posters with slogans encouraging the visitors to sign contracts had not yet been put up anywhere. Although villagers had done some additional building in their household compounds to add to their overall surface area to get a higher compensation amount, there were very few two-story structures in the village. This is a big difference from Beiwu.

The Zhongwu compensation standard is a 1:1 exchange of surface area from the original household compound to the new replacement housing. If villagers added on to their living space above a second story, this will not count in the exchange. However, they can receive between 3000-4000 yuan per square meter, to compensate them for their labor and building materials. “And, compared to the past, the villagers are well satisfied with the compensation process, because in the past the government sent staff members to measure the surface area, inspect. register, and what not, and the requirements were excessive.”

The Zhongwu replacement housing will be built right next to Beiwu’s [Beiwu Jiayuan]. While there are 42 buildings in the Beiwu Jiayuan complex, the local government plans to build as many as 100 more buildings to accommodate residents from Zhongwu and other nearby villages. Seeing this reporter, a number of older Zhongwu residents surrounded him, saying, “Because the two villages are so close, many of have relatives in Beiwu, and we have gone to visit them in their new residences. The one problem is that the buildings are built too close together, influencing how much light comes through the windows, but other than that everything is pretty good.”

Even so, the Zhongwu villagers in the end still have doubts. Mr Zhang said, the South-North Water Diversion Project, a major national project that will build a huge reservoir here to supply water to all of Beijing, may have priority in this area. Because the villagers have not seen the formal plan, they are unsure what will happen. There are many other things which cause them to have doubts. For example, what assurance is there that every household will get a fair allotment based on surface area, when some might try and take unfair advantage? Will the residents get full property rights (“large property rights”), enabling them to sell their residence if they choose to? Once they move, will they be allowed to transition from a peasant household registry to an urban registery (hukou)? What kind of life will they have after “moving up” to life in a tall building? Will they receive social security and other benefits for the elderly?

Because of the uncertainty, there are many rumors. “The government cannot only think of the pending demolition and relocation, but also about what we should do after we move.” The plan details should be completely filled in, including exactly what benefits the villagers will receive in the future, and information about the social safeguards they will be eligible for should be made completely transparent. At present this is what the villagers are constantly thinking about.

“We should give our support to national policy initiatives, such as urban-rural unification, the Beijing Water Project, and the transformation of urban villages. But in our hearts we are peasants — if we have a choice, we do not want to give up our land. Without land, how will our children and grandchildren eat and make a living?” This is what the older generation says.

In reality, tillable land around Beiwu or Zhongwu disappeared long ago. What the villagers have is what few plots have been passed down directly from previous generations, and the land that makes up their household compounds. Although stipulations are that every family is allotted a household compound of 120 square meters, as the population of permanent residents has increased Yuquancun (the administrative authority over the village) has divided the plots to accommodate the increase, and consequently the size of these has shrunk. There are many who, at twenty or almost thirty years, have not yet been apportioned a house or land. When they want to get married and start a family, they first must call on the village committee [to be given a place to live].

Yuquancun is the administrative authority over Beiwu, Zhongwu, Xiaotun, Minzhuang, and other local villages, eight in all, in turn controlled by Shijiqing town. Despite whatever authority the village head of Zhongwu might have, Yuquancun has rented out almost all the good land that belongs to the village. Mr Zhuang said, “This land runs along Minzhuang Road, which is the only route for Beijingers to use to get to Xiangshan [Fragrant Hills Park]. It is busy with traffic all the time. The sides of Minzhuang Road are lined with businesses, especially with car dealerships, making this a major place for people from Beijing to come to buy automobiles. The rent from these businesses all goes to a corporation run by the administrative district. The land belonging to the village collective is rented out, and the villagers, as members of the collective, say they have not seen a penny of the dividends. Perhaps they do not know to whom to address their demands as members of the collective, to receive some material benefit. The reason this situation exists is because they are under a system of authority in which Shijiqing town occupies the highest level.

In 1958, Shijiqing town set up a system of administrative ownership of the land, as part of the national communist effort to advance agricultural techniques under a system of collective agriculture, run from the top down. While this national system changed after the reform and opening up period [starting in 1978] Shijiqing did not carry out these reforms. The administrative village level (Yuquancun) and the village committee had no authority whatsoever over village land policy — the full authority and management decisions lay entirely with the Shijiqing town government, and they had no need to inform the village committee of their decisions. Therefore, the villagers never acquired a consciousness of the land as being fundamentally under the collective ownership of the villages. They do not know who is in charge, and have no idea how to find out.

According to villagers, under the Shijiqing government authority, the village committee was required to make every adult villager do jobs in a labor force. “The reality was, if you were dissatisfied about the work, the town government just ignored you.” In other words, between the ages of 20 and 60 when they could be called up to work anytime, for all that forty years, the villagers in the labor force got no subsidy from the government at all.

In Zhongwu today, 80 percent of those who have worked in the labor force have received no compensation. “ In Zhongwu, do you know what those who staff the public security booth get? 60 yuan a month.” “There’s no land to plant, no subsidy, no income, the only way to make a living is to rent out rooms in one’s house. If there was anything better, no one would be willing to rent out rooms in their home to ten or more complete strangers.”
Dr Li, whose ancestors lived in Zhongwu, said, “They say in the future we will ‘move up’ to better living conditions, but our means of livelihood are all cut off. If we are in the city but still in the agricultural household registry, our social security, medical insurance, and elderly assistance will all be less, we’ll be under a double standard. The rate of reimbursement for medical expenses is lower for peasant households than urban residents, and more restricted. If one needs help living with a serious illness, the wait for assistance is three years.At present in the village those over 60 receive an old-age pension that does not exceed 600 yuan a month. This is less than one half the standard for Beijing city residents. When we move, we’ll be faced with higher costs in monthly building maintenance fees and heating. How will we live?”

When this reporter asked the villagers what the government’s position on collectively owned land was, whether the villages after relocating would share in any profits generated by the use of village land as shareholders, and whether they had plans to manage the assets and return those profits to the village collective as a whole, the villagers said this was very difficult to determine. In the past all profits generated from the village had been turned over to the Shijiqing town financial administration, and no share had ever come to the villagers.

Mr Zhang said, “The plan calls for building restaurants –that’s good. For building public housing for migrant workers –that’s good. But will any of the revenue get to the villagers?” There are no documents in the plan spelling this out.

Although Beiwu also planned to construct public housing for migrants, so far this has been not worked out. The problem is that building rental housing on village collective land solely for profit, will necessarily expose these properties to the fluctuations of the market, which is strictly forbidden, as a national policy.

People’s Congress Representative Xu Zhiyong said that if the village collective is given sole authority over construction on village land, without any government investment in the construction, the village organization is not necessarily willing to invest in this kind of rental housing for migrants. In Beiwu, the village was given leadership over the construction, and their total investment was 900 million yuan ($137 million). Except for some government subsidies and loans, the sole source of Beiwu’s capital is one parcel of land which is open for development. Beiwu and Zhongwu are both close to the Summer Palace and Jade Spring Hill, their land is as the saying goes, “an inch of land that equals an inch of gold.” They are also close to the Yuquan Huigu office building complex, where the rent is currently 3 yuan per square meter per day, or 9000 yuan per 100 square meters a month. It is clear that for the village corporation, constructing office buildings or industrial parks would generate more profits than low-income housing. However, they may be boxed in by the plan prescribed to them by the government, and be unable to act in a way that generates the most profits for them, no matter how firmly they try to grasp onto the promises of self-determination.

konjaku: some of the details in this article were hard for me to follow. It seems like the Beiwu model, giving villagers autonomy over development on village land, carries with it certain “contradictions.” The legal status of the village land after the demise of the village is not clearly defined, in part because the different interests of the involved parties could not be fully reconciled. The government wants a return on its investment for paying out compensation and other expenses; it also wants profits from the development to supplement other expenses. The villagers, insecure about their livelihoods, want profits from the development of the land, but they do not want to assume all the risk in case ventures fail. For instance, if the village collective corporation opens a high-end restaurant, and that business fails, how are they to assume the loss? In addition, there seems to be a framework of legal restrictions that do not fit the circumstances here, but which are not easy to change. The villagers cannot legally become individual capitalist-style actors in the market, and the government is still pledged to build a certain amount of low-income housing, an obligation it seems willing to foist upon the villagers in the name of “village autonomy,” and “one village one policy.”

The Yuquan Huigu office building complex (photo by “Zhongguancun”):



South-North Water Diversion Project 南水北调国家重点工程

Shijiqing town 四季青镇
large property rights 大产权
moving up 上楼

konjaku: Now, in 2017, we see the park, brand new, built on the former Zhongwu village site. According to the blogger, the villagers moved into Beiwu Jiayuan, not into new housing built specifically for them.

Zhongwu Park
from a blog:




Zhongwu Park is so new it doesn’t appear on the map yet.

This rural park is a wonderful addition to the Three Mountains Five Imperial Gardens area. Zhongwu refers to the former Zhongwu village. The villagers have all moved to Beiwu Jiayuan. Where the village once stood this park was built, and the villagers can get jobs here planting trees, fields of canola flowers, and paddy rice: plants which evoke the old village life.

There are many parks in this area. I went to Beiwu Park and Yudong Park, but had never heard of Zhongwu. Fortunately a friend told me about it, but I had no idea how to get there, because it wasn’t on the map. On asking around, I was told it was just south of Beiwu Park, so that is how I got here.


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