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Danke Apartments: an alternative for college graduates

konjaku: urban villages function as entry-points for people flooding into Beijing. Villagers for whom farming is no longer viable put up illegal buildings, and make a good income renting cheap rooms. When villages are demolished as part of the urban-rural unification plan undertaken by Beijing city, the need for cheap rentals does not disappear. As we saw in Xiaojiahe, a mix of ex-villagers, squatters, and entrepreneurs continue to put up illegal buildings wherever they can in the surrounding area, and college graduates will rent a small bare room in a simple building put up in a vegetable field, as long as it provides the bare essentials for living and there is mass transportation to reach their place of employment. The landscape of this next phase of the urban village, a quasi-village without any history or boundaries, is a place in which “the road is only wide enough for one car to pass at a time, and on both sides between the low-lying houses, narrow alleys like capillaries wind off into the distance.” If the local town government is unwilling or unable to allocate money to destroying the illegal buildings on land which is not part of some grander development plan, an improvised urban fabric continues to exist.

The replacement housing for Xiaojiahe villagers is a nice new residential complex, built conveniently over the new Nongdananlu subway station, called Xiaojiahe New Village. It also includes some buildings managed by Danke Apartments (dànké, “eggshell). “If you are a 2017 college graduate, you can participate in the Danke Apartments Starling Plan and get 1000 yuan in credits.”

Danke Apartments may represent an attempt by the market to offer an alternative in affordable housing that will lessen the demand filled by urban villages or unmanaged spaces — but only for college graduates and white-collar workers.Their promotional blurbs, in which the word “white-collar” appears frequently, make it clear who may apply. Danke Apartments does not own property, but it finds apartment buildings it can furnish, maintain, and rent — to college graduates and white-collar clients. The rental market in China is unstable, with distrust on both sides. Property owners do not trust tenants, therefore they demand at least three months rent in advance. Tenants worry about false advertising, slippery contracts, and being saddled with debt. The challenge for Danke Apartments and companies like it is to rationalize the housing market. They offer a “one month deposit, one month’s rent in advance” contract (although there is a catch, as we will see) to encourage those who cannot scrape together the larger “traditional” advance. Also, they find roommates for tenants, allowing them to group single persons in larger apartments, and presumably that also helps people live in larger, nicer spaces for less money.

This is Danke apartments advertisement of its Starling Plan for 2017

The plan:
When you sign a contract for one year, after 6 months you can switch one time free of charge to another Danke apartment anywhere in the country
Refund of 1000 yuan: on every months rent, we put aside 125 yuan to you as credit, at the end of 8 months, the full amount is eligible to be returned ([1000 yuan, $159]. After one more month has passed, within three working days we give you the full amount. At that point the earned credit agreement is complete.

Eligible persons: any person who graduated from college in 2017 (full time students, from undergraduate or graduate course of studies)

This offer ends 2017-07-15.
For those who change apartments during the period of earned credits, including switching free of charge, the earned credit plan will be terminated.

The tenant must have a WeChat account that is tied to a bank account passbook number, otherwise it is illegal to return the credit as payment.

In applying for this offer, the applicant must present a genuine student card. If on re-examination this card is found to be a forgery, we will revoke the credit offer and nullify the free-switching offer.

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“You’d better rent a nice space to start practicing your Beijing accent.”

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“A good apartment in the Shanghai alleyways will up your “face value” [social status]”

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“During the day enjoy Hong Kong and Macao– at night, sleep in Danke apartments in Shenzhen”

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“A young woman from Chengdu: good things happen to good people.

After graduating, she lived with her boyfriend in a Danke apartment, and the starling plan really lessened their financial burden. Their room had a balcony on which they could practice yoga or chit-chat with other people, making their life in Beijing rich with possibilities.”

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“The first thing this very smart woman did after graduating from Peking University was to rent a Danke apartment.
A Danke apartment is perhaps not perfect in every way, but she says that for a recent graduate it is entirely appropriate, and she is satisfied with her apartment. She is pleased with the process of renting, the care and service she received as a potential customer. She is happy with the room’s lay-out and the ingenuity of the person who designed the room. She is gratified by the thoroughness of the cleaning ayi [cleaning women], and even more, she is glad to receive credits on her rent.”

konjaku: Danke Apartments offers a special status to those “very smart” millennials,who have graduated from a Beijing University. People who have moved to the capital from elsewhere might expect to be disparaged as outsiders, but here, since they are college graduates, they are the target of an ad campaign and given special treatment. As a graduate, it is good to be a young woman from Chengdu who lives with her boyfriend (Danke makes it possible for them to share the rent), is acquiring a Beijing accent, and does yoga on her balcony. She can benefit from the savings of 1000 yuan now, but in the future she may enter a prestigious field — high-tech or media –and rise far. The next promotional article makes it more explicit that Danke Apartments attracts the young highly-educated elite — one of whom will be your roommate.

konjaku: this article refers to the first year the starling plan was offered, 2016

Danke Apartments Starling Plan comes back for a surprise second attack!

2400 people has applied for the starling plan, from 2016 -05-25 up to now (06-28), and 1412 of their fellow students have gotten apartments. Danke apartments has shown a praiseworthy concern and a sense of social duty for these recent graduates and their urgent need for housing.
Starting 07-01 they will do a “second launch” of the plan, and respectfully invite all of this year’s graduates who have not yet found housing to apply.

In the first launch of the starling plan, Beijing college and university students were “favorably positioned,” and managed to snag 40 percent of the openings. Those with M.A. degrees or above got 25 percent of the slots. And among successful applicants, there was no shortage of students who had studied overseas. In other words, the cream of the crop. In former times a wise mother would pack up and move anywhere to put her child in the best environment for his or her education. Today, there is Danke Apartments. If you live there, your neighbors will be “scholar-tyrants” [superb students], associating with those of such excellent character, their best qualities will rub off on you.

The tenants who have flocked to Danke Apartments represent the highest level of those going into all the different professions: languages, design, economics, computer hardware and software, the media. Your roommate may be a future t.v. star, or perhaps an influential authority on the internet, or a “language emperor” who can speak seven languages, or one of those programmers who doesn’t speak much but earns a lot, or a trader who plots out a new algorithm strategy…at Danke you will have the opportunity to meet the heros of the future, who will help you on your way as your close friends!

At the second launch of the starling plan, on 07-01, there will be a raffle drawing for a big prize (which remains a secret). We invite all to participate!

konjaku: the following article explains Danke Apartments basic business model. They help you find a suitable apartment and roommate, and they clean, service, and repair the apartments they manage. One can look at apartments for rent at their site:

A typical apartment has two bedrooms, a common living room, a well-appointed kitchen, and a bathroom with toilet, shower, and a washing machine for clothes. [Washing machines are smaller than the western models, and can fit in a bathroom].

Danke Apartments matches into Shanghai


Shanghai is a large metropolis, and international city. Every year thousands and thousands of people come to work –college graduates, all kinds of white collar workers. After getting a job, finding a place to rent is the next most important thing. However, renting is not an easy matter –there are many prospective tenants who come to grief, who may even get duped or cheated out of their money. Already regarded as one of the leading brand names in high-end white-collar apartments, in the 7th month [July] Danke Apartments formally opens into greater Shanghai. For white-collar workers looking for a place to rent, this will be an earth-shaking transformation.


Danke Apartments already has fans in Beijing and Shenzhen. Starting in Beijing, it has established itself as a brand name of high-end products for white-collar workers looking for for a high-quality rental experience. Danke Apartments is not traditional type of rental agency, but an internet company, in asset-management, with no intermediaries. Relying on the “internet plus real estate properties plus financing” model, Danke Apartments received an A+ round of $14 million in its capital fund. Its apartments, beautifully furnished, stocked with brand name electric appliances, and accompanied by top grade service, have won the praise of its customers. In 2016 it was awarded the prize of all-China superlative internet product.


Danke Apartments Shanghai office interior

Now, Danke Apartment fans in Shanghai will have the chance to live in a white-collar apartment that will enhance their “face value” [social status]. In recent years, young people have had a love/hate relationship with Shanghai –steadily rising rents has caused them “to retreat from difficulties” and move away, taking their hopes with them. In the Shanghai market for white-collar renters there is a mix of good and bad: some tenants face noisy environments that force them to terminate their leases, some in the name of sharing a lease have to deal with over-crowding. There is layer upon layer of hidden hazards due to lack of fire prevention measures and general oversight. These problems have a pervasive effect on the rental experiences of 3 million to 4 million renters in Shanghai, including white-collar workers. Danke Apartments has chosen this opportune moment to march into Shanghai and offer a reliable, first-class product paired with excellent service. It will usher in a new era in rentals for white collar workers, showing that high quality does not have to mean a high price tag.

Danke Apartments’ most cherished undertaking is its “one month deposit, one month’s rent in advance” plan. It overturns the huge burden of pressure that the traditional “one month deposit, three month’s rent in advance” provision imposes on prospective tenants, taking leave of that awful era in which renting an apartment “left the inside of your purse cleaner than your face.” The apartments are completely renovated. A special design team made up of architectural designers of the 80s generation have done everything in their power to create a warm living space that is simple, yet complex. The beautiful interiors in TV dramas you vainly dreamed about have actually become reality. We will help you select your lease-partner, and will strictly limit the number of people who can be in one apartment. These basic provisions will open up a high-quality life for you: a public and transparent process, no extra charges or surcharges, free maintenance and repair service, free WIFI. You can relax, knowing that with one phone call you can make an appointment for a professional serviceperson to come and fix whatever problem you have. The apartment will always be kept sparkling, the public spaces in the apartment [excluding bedrooms] will be cleaned every two weeks. If you need to change locations, sublet, or terminate the lease, we will take your needs into consideration and do our best to satisfy you. In order that a larger amount of white-collar renters can enjoy Danke Apartment advantages, we are offering various “Celebrate Shanghai” promotions: new clients can get, 200, 500, or 800 yuan off, and old customers can get a coupon for cash back if they introduce new clients — no limit on how many coupons you can get. To our beloved long-time customers: Can you pass this up?


Our ad covering a bus


a prospective customer


The Danke Apartments Shanghai team

konjaku: here is a profile of a Danke Apartments service manager. This is not the whole article.

Danke apartment manager Wang Huanlin: if you put in hard work, it will result in a good reputation


12:30, a half hour after midnight. Beijing, Changping district, in Tiantongyuan. A room in a Danke Apartments building suddenly lost heat due to a burst radiator, and needed urgent repairs. From his location 10 kilometers away Danke apartment manager Wang Huanlin immediately rode his bicycle to the building, and contacted the building supervisor to stop the water. By 3 A.M. they had managed to effect a solution.

Wang Huanlin applied to be transferred to building manager on his own initiative. Why? This young man with a sunny disposition started to laugh, “When I was a rental agent, I kept hearing from customers their opinions about how to maintain the buildings, and the difficulties they had coordinating the different tasks that were needed.”

Beijing in the 11th month: the temperature suddenly drops, the heating gets turned on, and it is difficult to avoid the problems of pipes leaking or bursting.

One night, a tenant’s electric touchscreen door lock lost power. The device took 9 volt batteries, but they were a special type. Wang Huanlin spent an hour going to five or six different hardware stores until he found the right batteries.
“Being the building manager is much busier than being a rental agent.” But Wang Huanlin had no regrets.

konjaku: the article goes on to say that since Wang Huanlin’s face appears on the site when a customer looks for a room, many people have recognized him when he responds to a call for service.

However, Danke Apartments cannot overcome the prevailing distrust in the rental market that easily.

Danke Apartments rent payment system hits a snag: it actually involves taking out a loan and paying it back by installments

Renters beware of the trap of internet loans

Source: Beijing Evening News


In the season for college graduates to rent an apartment, if one sees slogans like “one month deposit, one month rent in advance” [instead of the standard: one month deposit, three months rent in advance], and “no middleman fees,” it all sounds pretty attractive, especially in Beijing, where it is not easy to find a good deal.

However, these attractive terms conceal fishy problems and risks, and it is possible to fall into a trap. A reader. Ms Liu, recently reported to this paper several problems she encountered when trying to rent. “The broker kept telling me it was ‘one month deposit, one month rent in advance.’ In a muddle I signed the contract, then right away I discovered that I had committed to the full amount for one year’s rent.” Ms Liu wanted to rent a room from Danke Apartments in Chaoyang district [Beijing], but only after she signed the contract did she find out she had committed to one year.

“As for the ‘one month deposit, one month rent in advance,’ this involved making a second contract with a finance company called Huifenqi on an internet platform, in which I would pay one month’s rent at a time to them. In other words, the internet company paid Danke Apartments a year’s rent on my behalf, and I was pledging to pay that amount back to Huifenqi, one month at a time.
One thing that disturbs me is that a Danke Apartments staff member told me, and the application form also states, that there is only one condition, which is clearly and unequivocally stated: the “one month deposit, one month rent in advance.” However, when I signed the contract, this somehow changed to “one year.” Another thing Ms Liu worries about, is whether the money she pays in monthly installments to Huifenqi, will really be credited to Danke Apartments. In the end, is there really a connection between Huifenqi and Danke Apartments? There is nothing written in the contract spelling out their relationship, so she wonders if they are really connected.

“It’s not clear who I’m renting from, and who I am paying. If I’m paying the rent to a third party, it seems fishy. The average consumer can’t tell what is true from what is a sham.” Afterwards, Ms Liu made a strong request to cancel the contract with Danke Apartments.

This reporter made an inquiry to an employee, who said “Danke Apartments” was the trademark for a product line of high-end apartments for white-collar workers, operating under the Ziwutong Property Management firm, based in Beijing. The company was founded in 2015-01, and is officially entered into the O2O rental property market. [O2O stands for “Online to offline.” It is a digital online platform that connects buyers with offline goods and services, comparable to Groupon, Uber, and OpenTable.] They are not in the traditional sense a property rental company, but instead an online platform that offers rental properties, which they also manage. Starting with eleven employees, they now have over 400, and have expanded from Beijing to Shenzhen and Shanghai.

As this reporter found out, Danke Apartments is not a centralized company, but rather one which makes agreements with landlords in dispersed places, to manage their properties as trustees. Danke Apartments does the actual renting, and for larger apartments, such as three bedroom apartments, it rents rooms in the apartment separately, and the individual tenant pays a portion of the rent [shares it with two other roommates].
In the “Terms and Conditions” section of the Danke Apartment website, it clearly states, “the method of payment is one month deposit, one month rent in advance. You will never again have to worry about digging into your pocket for up three months rent in advance.” There is no mention anywhere here of the installment plan as being paid through an internet platform.

In the Huifenqi application, it says the renter will pay to the Huifenqi platform instead of a landlord, and that the renter will pay back a portion of the loan each month as a month’s rent. This arrangement will ease the pressure on renters, it says. They can either pay by registering with Huifenqi, or by using their WeChat account number. But this service is not free. There is a charge of 4 percent at the quarter year mark, 5 percent at the half year, and 8 percent at the one year mark. If one does not pay before the monthly deadline, a penalty of 1 percent is assessed per day.

Actually, there are now many internet platforms now that offer the service of paying monthly rents, and these have broken the tradition of “one month deposit, three months rent in advance” or “one month deposit, six months rent in advance” which existed before. They advertise themselves as “rental properties plus financing plus internet company.” The traditional brick and mortar rental broker Woaiwojia [“I love my home”] now offers a long-term rental service through an internet platform called Fang siling [“Home Commander”]. In 2015, [one of China’s largest e-commerce companies] paired with Ziru Apartments to offer “Ziru Vouchers,” a service to pay for a year-long rental product. started a rental pay-by- monthly installments service called “58 monthly pay.”

These internal rental companies fall into two types. One type offers the user apartment listings based on whatever preferences the user inputs, and offers the “one month deposit, one month rent in advance” option. This includes Home Commander, Ziru Vouchers, and The other type only offers the installment plan of paying monthly rent, but not housing resources, such as Huifenqi and Quzu. In other words, users find the apartment they want to rent by themselves, and once they have finalized the rental agreement with the landlord (amount of rent and payment method), they apply to the internet platform (such as Huifenqi) to borrow the amount. The internet platform pays the landlord, and they pay back the amount monthly to the site.
When renting through an internet platform, what if the internet company does not pay the landlord? It is possible that the landlord, who was perhaps not directly involved in the rental agreement, may still seek out the tenant and demand the money, or force the tenant to leave the apartment. The tenant would be exposed to the double risk of “no home, and no money.” How can one guard against being cheated?

Liu Shuaijun of the Beijing City Jingde Law Firm warns tenants that signing a rental contract and a loan contract means that you are signing two completely separate, unrelated contracts, and this mat be to your disadvantage in case there is any sort of dispute. He advises that whenever the tenant communicates with the renter, the tenant should take careful notes of the conversation or record it. These can become evidence in the event of a lawsuit.

Liu Shauijun said that in the afore-mentioned Ms Liu’s case, Danke Apartments and Huifenqi have a cooperative agreement, similar to that between a real estate developer and a bank, but there is a difference: Danke does not offer a guarantee in regards to the loan taken out by the prospective tenant. The renters are right to be worried if there is no mention in both contracts of the relationship of the one entity to the other.

Liu Shauijun recommends that tenants demand a contract signed by all three parties, stating clearly that Huifenqi will represent the tenant in making a one-time payment of in the amount of the year’s rent to Danke Apartments; that the tenant will thereafter pay back the loan as monthly payments to Huifenqi; that Danke Apartments will provide a written notice to the other two parties that it has received the full amount due, and henceforth the tenant will only owe the agreed upon amount to Huifenqi.

An industry insider said, “Right now it is pretty easy to set up an internet rent-paying site, and most of the platforms offer virtually the same services. These sites even maintain their capital fund through peer-to-peer networks of small lenders.”

iResearch reports that internet finance service is a growing field. Supported by national policy, it is occupying a larger space in the capital market. Internet financing is a especially convenient way to get and make loans. Conventional finance companies need several days to a week to vet a loan, but internet services using AI to comb through data can approve a loan in several hours, or even just several minutes, making the process that much easier for the consumer.

However, because paying rent through internet platforms is relatively new, and still in its first stages, there is inadequate oversight. Many areas are non-standard, one should exercise caution.

konjaku: one can see why Danke Apartments would want tenants to commit to a one year lease. At the same time, tenants may balk at committing to pay through an internet finance company, which is perhaps still a new and unfamiliar arrangement. In time, perhaps these difficulties with the contract process will be cleared up. In other desirable cities in the world in which rents are high, there are similar ventures trying to combine less expensive rents with more services. For instance, in San Francisco there is Starcity, although their focus is more on communal living (including shared kitchens and bathrooms), they also offer free WIFI, cleaning and maintenance in their package.


Huifenqi 会分期
Woaiwojia 我爱我家
House Commander 房司令
Danke Apartments 蛋壳公寓 京东
Ziru vouchers 自如白条




Xiaojiahe shequ part 2: the “portable building village”

konjaku: replacement housing for the Xiaojiahe villagers who signed contracts and moved out:


Built over the subway station, at Yuanmingyuan –the Xiaojiahe New Village


On summer days the lotus flowers are in full bloom, and the lotus flowers at Yuanmingyuang, situated between Zhongguancun and Shangdi, draws swarms of white-collar workers on holidays. To the north of Yuanmngyuang, Xiaojiahe was once classified as one of the sixty focal-point villages, but nowadays it appears to have come into bloom with a new face, as a high-end apartment complex aimed at white-collar workers, operating under the tradename of Danke Apartments, a quickly expanding internet property management firm with lots of capital.

The Nongdananlu (Agricultural University South Road) station on the new Number 16 subway line will open soon [it opened Dec 30, 2017]. There are now several ways to get to Zhongguancun and Shangdi, using the 4 and 16 lines, and transferring to buses –commuting is now extremely easy. From the Xiaojiahe New Village [Danke Apartment] complex, one can go directly into the underground subway station.


The Xiaojiahe New Village [Danke Apartment] complex is next to the west side of the China Agricultural University, and around it is a mature, well-developed town district. Well-established restaurants serving hot pots and other specialities are lined up in great numbers. The Baiwang shopping center is the largest in the area. Supermarket, general merchandise, food and beverages, amusement facilities, everything is there.


Along Nongdananlu Road on weekends for 2.5 kilometers, the street is closed to vehicle traffic for bicylists and pedestrians, to create a relaxed atmosphere. There is an abundance of scenic areas close by with Yuanmingyuan, Yiheyuan (the Summer Palace), and Baiwang Mountain [Baiwangshan forest park]. The Jingmi diversion canal is 1 km away, Shucun County park is 2 km. It is a very convenient place to live.

New subway, new town district, new homes, new life: in changing from its old existence to its new face, the Xiaojiahe New Village is for us undoubtedly a pleasant surprise. If you are a 2017 college graduate, you can participate in the Danke Apartments Starling Plan [I will cover Danke Apartments in a separate post] and get 1000 yuan in credits, which you can use to rent in a Danke apartment anywhere in the country (for details see their website). With so many great advantages, how can you hesitate?


a typical Danke apartment (above)

konjaku:but will the former villagers get to enjoy all the amenities aimed at white-collar workers?

Danke Apartments gets capital investment, see:

Meanwhile, other parts of Xiaojiahe she are still being cleared out in 2017.

Xiaojiahe shequ will clean up 20,000 square meters of illegal buildings — the shequ’s greatest hidden danger

editor Liang Shuang, reporter Ye Xiaoyan, photos Wen Bing
source: Beijing Evening News




Starting this week, Haidian district Xiaojiahe shequ will be cleaned up. The population is severely inverted (more migrants than original residents), the environment is disordered and full of hidden dangers. Starting with sealed management over the area, the buildings will be demolished. A resident said, “Take a look at how we live. At long last it will take on the real appearance of a community.”

If one goes in a small gate with a small sign saying “Xiaojiahe village welcomes you” in the northeast corner from Xiaojiahe bridge, one enters into the Xiaojiahe shequ one-story house district. As with many such houses in the urban-rural intersecting zone, the road is only wide enough for one car to pass at a time, and on both sides between the low-lying houses, narrow alleys like capillaries wind off into the distance. This area is divided into three types: (1) homesteads with garden belonging to agricultural families, (2) historical compounds, and (3) illegal buildings. These illegal buildings were built on top of vegetable plots. The Party General Secretary Mu Zenggang is aware of the situation. “These vegetable fields once provided an important food supply for Haidian District. At that time I was head of the production brigade here. Starting in 2000, there was not enough water, and the villagers realized they could make money by renting out rooms instead, and one after another buildings sprang up.”

Mu Zenggang took this reporter through a full-scale rental complex. In this area there were some 2000 rooms for rent. It seemed like a small society of its own. “Every winter this area is a big headache for us –worrying about fires, carbon monoxide poisoning. ” He said that once villagers started renting rooms, they sub-contracted out the business, and now there are layers and layers of sub-contractors. “Now there are 12 big landlords and 23 small landlords. The landlords only collect the rent, and pay no attention to safety issues.”

Inside the rental complex there are many illegal buildings. One can vaguely discern the outline of the original form of the compound [imagine it without the illegal additions]. The large compound has been divided into several smaller ones. In a smaller compound, marked by an iron gate, there are twenty rooms about ten meters square. The outer walls are fitted with a wind scoop, because previously they had all been heated by coal stoves. This is one hidden danger (carbon monoxide poisoning). Another is that there are only two or three roads that pass entirely through the 20,000 square meter area, and they are narrow and winding. If there is a fire, the outcome is dreadful to contemplate.

Photo: example of a wind scoop, which provides ventilation when using a coal stove.


This year (2017) 7th month, in conjunction with the project to “switch from coal to electricity” Malianwa district will start to reorder the area. They have already repaved the roads and created zones marked by yellow lines in which only electric vehicles and bicycles can park, not cars –which has brought smiles to people’s faces. This ensures that there will be space for ambulances and fire trucks to pass through. “Last month many tenants moved out. We had to deal with the mess left first. It seemed like the street was blocked up by items such as discarded cooking pots. In order to regulate parking, in the southeast corner of the shequ we have put in a parking lot that can handle as many as eighty cars. Also, we have eliminated the garbage cans that stood in one place which people could use at any time, and are guiding the residents to put out their trash on specified days and times for pick-up by our newly allocated garbage truck. We are increasing the number of times the garbage is picked up or cleaned and removed from the streets. Before, wastewater flowing out in the streets mixed with garbage, but this won’t happen anymore.”

Mu Zenggang said, “Now that we have dealt with the problems, Xiaojiahe can at last stop being labelled as a ‘ a focal-point area for public security problems and hidden dangers.’ My anxieties are mostly relieved.” After clearing up the illegal buildings, the area will put sealed management into place, installing security cameras and adding more patrols to look out for fires or other dangers. “Because of the complicated history of this area, levying the land for development has not yet been completed. During an interim period before re-development, the area will be sealed off. ”

konjaku: nevertheless, another area is mysteriously beyond government control.

Xiaojiahe portable building village — there are illegal buildings on close to 10,000 square meters, the government says it cannot afford to demolish them


reporter: Liu Fei

On the edge of construction sites, one can often see portable buildings, those with “white walls, blur roofs,” removed when the construction project is done. However there is one small district in Beijing where the construction project has been suspended, but the portable buildings have not been dismantled and removed. On the contrary, over several years the number has increased, with a number of such buildings on one parcel of land, numbered and organized, to form a unique urban village composed of these portable buildings. The local city management department says that these are clearly illegal buildings.

Photos: examples of portable buildings



If these buildings are illegal, now did it come to be an urban village in which people live? How did this “portable village” develop?

The Beijing city statistics bureau published the results of a survey, indicating that more than half of Beijing’s migrant residents live outside the fifth ring. Xiaojiahe urban village, just outside the fifth ring, has a large concentration.

Seller: do you want to rent a room? We have some. Wait a minute –that man will tell you about it.

Landlord: I have rooms for 600 or 650, good for those with temporary jobs or selling. Electricity is 13 yuan a month, other utilities are free; pay that by the month. For the room, I like to have three month’s rent upfront, but you can pay one month at a time if you have to.

Reporter: And this room is in a portable building?

Landlord: It’s all portable buildings here. We live in them, we rent out rooms in them to migrants. This group of buildings, some are rented to people to live in, others are rented as warehouses, they have water and electricity, and you can add satellite tv if you want.

In the same parcel of land there are some unfinished cement buildings that stopped at one story, with the steel reinforcing bars for the second story exposed to the sky, swaying in the wind. These too are rented out as living spaces or warehouses.

Ms Li, a resident: These were originally a planned development of detached houses, but the upper stories and roofs were never built. There have been several bursts of activity in building simple and crude structures over the last several years. Because there are so many people living here in a small space, they have even dug basements and some are living underground. Sanitation is poor. Several years ago, a section was lost to fire.

Usually rooms in portable buildings are rented without furniture or other facilities, but tenants can get coal stoves in winter and air conditioners in the summer.

In this district of portable buildings, everywhere one sees some people pushing handcarts selling snacks, some dragging heavy carts selling goods, and some selling out of minibuses. At the south end of the area there is a garbage dump.

Resident: One night I woke up, and they were burning the garbage, the smell was really strong. That made me mad –afterwards I reported it to the police, but too much time had passed, it was too late.

Resident: I see all kinds of bad things that go in in these shacks. Within a small area you can find just about anything there is in the big city — like the black clinic.

Even though the illegal buildings come in many different forms, this place is like other urban villages: on the one hand cheap and convenient; on the other, full of hidden dangers from inadequacies in sanitation, public security, and fire prevention.

After the last several years Beijing has launched a strict initiative against illegal buildings. Residents in the area have discussed the problems of the portable building village with City Management, but in the end City Management Department Deputy-Director Wang Hongjun says they simply cannot demolish so many illegal buildings over so large an area.

Wang Hongjun said, “ Someone reports an illegal building, or we discover it ourselves, but when we search for it we find that a new buildings stands where we removed one before. As soon as we finished demolishing and move on, someone comes and puts up a new portable building on the same spot. One thing we can do is seal shut all of the underground rooms before the flood season. But as for the buildings above ground, we are unable to get rid of them, because the cost is too high.”

白墙蓝顶”的活动板房 white wall and blue-roofed portable buildings
板房村 “portable building village”

konjaku: the following article explains the origin of the portable building village

A thousand workers encircle the unfinished building project because of unpaid wages –they create a “demanding arrears portable building village”

Source Jinghua Times


Close to one thousand workers have lived among the unfinished buildings at the construction site for the Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas for eight years, since work on the project was suspended. In order to have a place to live, they have put up blue-roofed portable buildings around the site, connected to gas, electricity, even cable tv. Cheap rents in these buildings have attracted migrant workers and peddlers. Gradually the population has grown, until it has become a “portable building village” of 2000 people, a unique form of settlement within Beijing city.

The workers are unwilling to leave until the dispute over unpaid wages is resolved.A residential district official said that although the area is over-crowded and the buildings all illegal, if they dismantle buildings the workers simply put up new ones, putting the authorities in a predicament.

Beijing in the 6th month, the days have started to become hot and dry. A couple of old people hobble slowly along, frequently bending over to carefully examine some piece of scrap on the ground to see if it can be resold, and if so, slowly putting it in a burlap bag. At nightfall, these two stagger inside the enclosing wall that surrounds the rows of portable buildings, and disappear inside. In there is what they call their home.

Outside the 5th ring, near Xiaojiahe Bridge, there is a district of ten thousand square meters enclosed by a wall, with neat and orderly rows of portable buildings, and also with unfinished structures that are topped by a chaotic jumble of criss-crossing exposed steel reinforcing rods. This small area forms a marked contrast with the new high-rise residential complexes in the vicinity.




Originally in this district there was a project to build 35 villas. Before the project was suspended, work had begun on the basements and first floor, with steel reinforcing bars to support the second floor.


During the initial phase of construction, these two old men had been watchmen at the construction site. At that time they never thought they would be “watching over” the site eight years later. Passing inside the portable building village on a crooked and pot-holed road one comes to their “home, “ a ten square meter room with only the most basic furniture, and no electronic appliances. Sitting in the unendurably hot and muggy room the two recount the history of how they came to Beijing.

In 2007, the son of one of the old men had become the leader of a construction team. He brought 300 men from Anyang in Henan province, their hometown, in order to work on this construction project; they were all hoping they could come to Beijing and make some money. The workers themselves had to contribute money to the project. The old man estimated that each put in at least 30,000 yuan. To raise this money they borrowed from friends and relatives. Many put in as much as 1 million yuan. The old man’s daughter-in-law explained that because the son (her husband) was the construction team leader, they raised more than 3 million yuan from friends and relatives, and then came to Beijing, bringing their parents with them.

In addition there were two other constructions teams, in the same way each with a team leader, each with some 300 workers. Altogether 1000 workers came to the construction site, from Sichuan, Hebei, Henan and Northeast China. These three teams signed an agreement with the contractor, Tangxian Huacheng company, to together build the Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas (Third Stage).

However, the project never progressed smoothly as the workers had expected. Beginning on 2007-10-28, the work was shut down several times, the last time being 2008-05-27, and has not resumed since. For eight years, the contractor and the supplier (of building materials) have not once paid the wages owed to the workers, and the workers have been steadily waiting both for the work to resume and to receive their money, while living at the building site.

According to a Malianwa residential district official, tha parent company, Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas Company, was in arrears in payments to the contractor (Tangxian Huacheng company), which could not pay the workers or buy materials. Therefore work was suspended, but the workers refused to leave. “This portable village is something which didn’t just spring up in one night and a day.”

Both sides disagree as to why the work was suspended. The workers say that Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas Company did not pay its bills starting 2008-06-13. The company says that they actuallty began postponing payments at a later date, and the reason was that the other side sub-contracted work out to unknown parties who themselves sub-contracted the work out to others. This led to a lack of trust, in which they could not be sure the terms of the original contract were being followed, and for that reason they suspended the work.

Both sides have another point of conflict: the disagree on how to calculate the amount of money owed. Ms Wu, representative of the worker’s side, said that cost of building supplies, unpaid wages to workers, and salaries to those who have been watching over the construction site for 96 months, amounts to 35 million yuan ($ 5.5 million).

The representative for the developer said, thirty five villas had been completed at a cost to the company of 26 million yuan, and they previously paid the workers 3 million yuan. In addition, they provided the steel reinforcing rods at a cost of about 8 million yuan, but only a small amount of them were actually used in the construction, and afterwards the workers sold off the rest. If one considers these expenses, they don’t owe the workers anything. The other side is just pulling this 30 million yuan figure out of thin air.
In another wrinkle, in 2010 one supplier, a cement company, sued both the developer and the workers for unpaid receipts. However, according to the standard Beijing contract, the developer pays 30 percent up front but the complete amount only after the completion of the building. Since no building had been completed, and the corresponding certificates of inspection on the quality of cement provided were lacking, the court ruled that it was premature to expect full payment, rejecting the suit.

For eight years, the workers have been living in the portable building village. On the one hand, they waited to settle their accounts, on the other, they looked for new ways to make a living.


At dawn each day, the quiet portable building village becomes noisy and bustling, as residents prepare for the day’s work. Vender pushing food stalls head toward the market area, to serve simple breakfasts, or sell fruit and vegetables. Those who remain behind in the village are mostly the old and the young. Often the old people walk about with bags picking up scrap they can resell to supplement their household income, and the children follow behind and play around the trash heaps. “We are anxious to return home, but we cannot,” says the old father of the construction team leader. With tears in his eyes, he says, over and over, “We borrowed 3 million yuan.” Not to mention the interest on such a large sum. The old man cannot go back and face his relatives and friends, in eight years he has not once returned home.


When work first stopped in 2008, there were two rows of perfectly good portable buildings set up outside the construction site. The workers first moved into these. After the district government demolished these buildings, they had nowhere else to go, but were unwilling to leave the area without collecting their money, therefore for a while they all began living inside the construction site. At night they stayed in the rooms below ground in the unfinished buildings.

After one year, because the underground rooms were cold, gloomy, and wet, many old people and children began to have health problems. Gradually people began to put up portable buildings on the site, moving to a life above ground. Throughout 2013 portable buildings continued to rise up, ringing the construction site, By the end of 2014 portable buildings had reached a peak of prosperity. But the cost to put up a one room portable building was 7000 yuan, and a few families who could not afford that continued to live underground.

The housing problem was solved for most, but then, how to make a living? Some women raised chickens next to their “homes,” others grew corn and vegetables. Some they consumed themselves, some they sold in the market. The men did odd jobs when available or ran small businesses. Many were like Mr Zhang, from Sichuan. He had borrowed 1 million yuan, therefore he felt he couldn’t go home without waiting for his unpaid wages. However, his mother back home had no one to look after her, so her brought her to Beijing. In order to live, his mother gathered waste scraps and grew vegetables.

As with Mr Zhang, more families began bringing their aged relatives to Beijing, and the population living in the portable buildings increased. According to the workers team leader, at present there are 2000 living in the buildings. 80 percent of those are workers waiting to be paid, and 20 percent are tenants.

Looking around, old and young people are walking about, laundry is hanging out to dry from windows. The walls of the buildings are plastered with rental signs, for rooms to rent to live in from 300 to 600 yuan, or to use as storerooms. If the tenant customer wants to rent a new building, the landlord offers to erect one within three days. Because the rental rates for portable buildings are so cheap, this attracts migrant workers, as well as small tradesmen and peddlers.

The residential district office estimates there are some 500 rooms going for rent in the portable building village, although there are a number that are unregistered. One landlord claims to have 30 rooms to rent in one building, and if one calculates 500 yuan per room for a month, that is a pretty good income (15,000 yuan, approximately $2400).

There are two entrances to the portable building village, which means there are many people passing freely in and out. Add this to the density of the population living inside, and things are chaotic. People drag carts of scrap to a waste products processing facility inside the village. Crude toilet facilities are set up in one location, and next to that is a hole dug in the ground for trash. This spot has an awful smell.

According to the authorities responsible for this district, the portable buildings are illegal. The Malianwa district office said these plots of land have been mortgaged out to different parties multiple times, and the situation was very complex. Besides the dispute between the workers and the developer, there are other legal disputes, such that it is impossible to say who exactly has property rights over the land.

The Malianwa district office spokesperson said that the head of the development corporation had been out of the country for a long period, and had left several subordinates to deal with this matter. These persons have been in regular touch with the district office, and they recognize that they are in arrears and owe unpaid wages to the workers. The problem is, each side has its own version of what the figure should be. The district office has made an attempt to mediate the dispute, but a person with responsibility to negotiate for the developer has failed to appear.


According to the Malianwa district office, “the reason why there are illegal buildings on such a scale, is that when we demolish them, they simply put up new ones, and despite repeated bans this cannot be stopped.” It costs money to demolish, and for illegal buildings inside the construction zone, this should be the responsibility of the developer, but “in the present situation, the developer is not putting out any money, and this is a real problem.”

Many times residents in the vicinity have complained to the authorities, that the environment in the portable village is degraded, or that they have seen fires break out. The authorities say that many times they have gone in and cleaned up the area, in 2012-08-10 they demolished 70 homes, in 2014-05-08 they demolished 24 homes. But each time after a month had passed the workers had put up new portable buildings on those sites, and even expanded the area in which these buildings were erected, therefore they were unable to finish the job of clearing up the area.

Why haven’t all the illegal buildings been torn down? The Malianwa district office says it simply cannot afford to do it. The area filled with illegal buildings is large, the number of buildings is great,. “ To demolish a few buildings is not a problem, but here the area in question is ten thousand square meters. It costs 100 yuan for every square meter. To get started, we would need to have five million yuan ($780,000). Since this area is an unfinished construction project, it is stipulated to be the developer’s responsibility to put up the capital to demolish.”

The Malianwa district office spokesperson said that waiting for unpaid wages does not justify making a living by renting out illegal buildings. City Management is at present clearing out those people that live in the underground spaces under unfinished buildings, and sealing up the entrances. If there is a heavy rain, water could flood into those spaces, in which people are using fire, gas, and electricity. This would be a danger to them and to public safety. These spaces also provide a place for travelling venders and others engaged in illegal food reprocessing (treating old or spoiled food products with chemicals and reselling).

On 05-25 the Malianwa district set up a command post and began removing people from the underground spaces. By 05-28, people and the goods were out, and the entrances were sealed up with brick fragments.

The spokesperson said that if in the future all the illegal buildings in the portable building village are removed, the workers will be provided with dormitories to stay in, in order that they can remain at the site until their dispute is resolved. “We must give these workers a place to live.”

For now, it is unknown how long this situation will continue.

text: Jinghua Times reporters Zheng Yujia Han Tianbo Chang Xin
photos: Zhao Siheng

konjaku: in the photo below, there are rows of portable buildings in the foreground, and an apartment building complex in the background. The sign on top of the buildings says “Yuanmingyuang Garden [Villas].” This is probably an earlier stage of the construction project,  a stage which was successfully completed.1-16111501152MF.JPG










Village # 14 Xiaojiahe shequ

Village # 14 is Xiaojiahe, shequ, under the administration of the Malianwa residential district, in Haidian district

Xiaojiahe, shequ 肖家河社区
Malianwa residential district马连洼街道
Haidian district 海淀区

konjaku: Xiaojiahe has gotten attention in the media as a village in which members of the “ant tribe” have settled. The ant tribe refers to college graduates either looking for jobs in, or recently hired into, the tech industry, centered in Zhongguocun (Beijing’s silicon valley). Beginning in 2010, there were a number of stories about a flood of recent college graduates, whose numbers outpaced the available jobs in the science and technology sector. As these graduates got by with lesser positions or part-time work, they faced rising rents in Beijing, and were forced to live in the overcrowded urban villages along with migrant laborers. The urban villages offered cheap rents and mass transportation to tech districts, but did not meet any building codes or safety standards.
The first village that received coverage was Tangjiangling. A group of mothers toured the dark and narrow living quarters with expressions of concern, a mop top duo with guitars composed anthems of the graduates’ tribulations, and the bus stop where the graduates lined up every morning in the thousands to takes buses to Zhongguancun became a famous place. Tangjiangling was soon designated one of the 50 villages, and was demolished. The graduates moved on to Liulangzhuang, also subsequently demolished, and then, apparently, to Xiaojiahe and other places.

The eventual fate of the ant tribe seems a more compelling story in the media than paying attention to the migrant laborers who also have been forced to move on from one urban village to the next. But another reason reporters have come to investigate Xiaojiahe is that it is a good example of the idea that the urban village has become something that, after being demolished, continues a kind of half-existence, or freely replicates itself in other places. As long as people come to Beijing to try to make their fortune, they will need a place offering cheap rents, basic services, and lax administration.

As detailed below, the land occupied by the village called Xiaojiahe ( the extent to which it was ever a village is in dispute) was turned over to Peking University, in a project to demolish the village and build faculty housing. Although this project was delayed by corrupt transactions, eventually the majority of the villagers moved away, into new replacement housing. However, a larger entity, Xiaojiahe shequ, with the same characteristics of an urban village, continued to exist in the same general area. While the village was demolished by 2013, news articles about renting to migrants, or about demolishing illegal buildings in Xiaojiahe shequ, continue up to the present (2017-18).

This summary of Xiaojiahe is undated, but is probably before 2011.肖家河

Previously called Xiaojiahe village, because of the fast pace of development in Beijing it is now more of a region than a village. It is on the northern edge of Yuanmingyuan (park and ruins of the former imperial gardens and palace), on the north bank of the Qinghe river, and southwest of the China Agricultural University. It started as an army barracks protecting Yuanmingyuan. It hass been classified as one of the fifty “focal-point” urban villages to be transformed.

At present it takes fifth place in all Beijing city for the influx of migrants. For every one thousand residents, there are several tens of thousands of migrants. One-story houses have had another story added, to create rooms to rent to migrants. As one of the last areas of old one-story houses not yet demolished by 2010, it was a place for members of the ant tribe (college graduates looking for high-tech jobs) to cluster, being only 20-30 minutes from Zhongguancun (Beijing’s silicon valley), and thus a flourishing business for area residents renting to tenants.

There are 5131 permanent residents and 17,800 migrants living in Xiaojiahe shequ.

In the village 80% of the tenants are migrants, with the remaining 20% of renters being mostly older people. The young have increasingly moved away.

The two and three story buildings, whether older or newer, are all illegal. The demolition and relocation plan stipulates that none of them meet the standard for compensation. When public security or city management personnel were around villagers adding to their homes stopped work, but when these management people left, they resumed work at a feverish pace. They feel the profits they can receive from renting, will, when the village is finally demolished, make up for the compensation they will not receive. “In a word, constructing rooms to rent is a form of steady income, it can’t lose.”

Xiaojiahe is an example of many urban villages, dispersed in hidden corners of the urban fabric. Spurred on by demand and desire for profit, they keep replicating themselves.

konjaku: here we are introduced to the plan to demolish the village and build housing for Peking University starting in late 2011.

Peking University “enclosed site” to build on is an urban village: the demolition and relocation of villagers is starting up

2011-07-19 09:39:12

Eight years ago the government granted to Peking University 430,000 square meters of land, on which sits an urban village slated to be transformed. As of 2011-05, Peking University formally began the project to build the Xiaojiahe Teaching and Administrative Staff Residential Housing. Total investment is 4200,000,000 yuan (634 million dollars). According to a rough draft of the plan, this will provide housing for 5000 families.


a rendering of the Peking University plan (above)

When Tsinghua University carelessly revealed that it planned to build 5000 residential units, this caused a storm of public opinion (see note below), and Peking University is being very low key in the aftermath. There are many colleges, universities and research institutes in the same boat as Peking University, that want to solve the difficult problem of insufficient housing for young faculty and staff.

An official from the land resources bureau who did not want to give his or her name said that if colleges and universities build their own housing for young faculty members and sell it to them at a reduced price based on their ability to pay, these faculty members then do not have to go out into society and compete for other public housing resources (government-built low income housing). This is not a bad thing. “The key is to make sure the funds for construction are not allocated from state financial resources. Also, if this goes along with a project to transform an urban village, what’s wrong with that?”

On the south side of the China Agricultural University western campus is a large patch of one- story homes straddling Yuanmingyuan West Road. To the north a number of tall buildings tower overhead, making the village seem out of place. This reporter visited this patch of land which is about to be demolished. A resident on the east side of the road told me that from the 5th month demolish-and-relocate notices have been put out, and employees of the relocation company have been going door to door measuring and surveying houses. On the west side of the road there are narrow alleys of small stores going in all directions, and the demolish-and-relocate posters are on all the walls, dated 2011-05-13. The announcement states that Peking University has a contract (2010) with the Beijing Municipal Government to construct its faculty housing at Xiaojiahe, and as of 2011-05-12, all new house construction or additions to houses must be suspended.

A passerby pointed out to this reporter the headquarters of the Xiaojiahe neighborhood committee. In the display window outside the headquarters was posted the environmental impact report on the project, signed by the University.

This poster describes the scale of the project. What will we constructed is: housing for teaching and administrative staff, a complete residential village with facilities, public service centers, and replacement housing for the village. Construction will start on 2012-05.
This reporter called the phone number given on the notice, which turned out to be the construction office of the Peking University Xiaojiahe project. The staff member who answered said, “We have not comprehensively put together all the data yet. In this first stage of the project, we have been very busy, and we are not yet ready to receive inquiries from the media.”

Xiaojiahe compensation and replacement housing project starting up

There will be a dual process of substitution of the old house area for the new residence, and also monetary compensation. There are 248 household compounds to be demolished, involving 1056 people (the population listed in the records). The Tengyu Demolition and Relocation Company won the contract, and is starting work on 2011-10-20.

Xiaojiahe was designated a focal-point village by Beijing city in 2010. Because it is in the urban-rural intersection zone, there are many migrants who rent as tenants, and the rental housing constructed by villagers, lacks official property rights. At this point, the command post has laid the foundation for the job, by surveying each house, according to “quality over speed” and “taking the easier first, the hard later.” The demolition and relocation company knows the village situation well. They have drawn up a meticulous plan, and dispatched their crack troops and brilliant commanders in six small working groups. Already they have got many families to sign contracts.


Note: for the Tsinghua University controversy, see

“Tsinghua 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 Tsinghua 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 Tsinghua 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.

konjaku: several blogs detail progress in the project, and then delays:

2011-05-06 the Xiaojiahe region began the process of demolition and relocation. [Summary: the Malianwa neighborhood, according to instructions, convened assemblies of residents and party members to hear details of the plan and give opinions. Party members committed themselves to be the first to move out of their homes, then went among the masses to give information, heart-to-heart talks, feedback, listen to objections, etc., to prepare for an orderly process of demolition and relocation, etc. etc.]

The Tengyu demolition company, which has transitioned from a state-run enterprise to a market-economy company, won the bid to demolish and relocate villagers at Xiaojiahe in preparation for construction of housing for Peking University teaching and administrative staff. Last year they also won the bid to demolish other buildings at the site, which gives them two good outcomes and the income from both projects in the bag. At the command post they are vigorously organizing the command structure, and meticulously forming small groups, following the watchwords “quality first, speed second,” and “difficulties will come later, but persevere.” In a deep and thorough-going way they are going house to house to carry out field work.

Because this area is in an intermixed urban-rural zone, there are many buildings renting to tenants, the migrant population is high. The composition of people living in any one building is complex. There are many buildings with upper stories added on privately; in general, the putative owners of buildings have no papers showing their property rights. For all these reasons the field work — a survey of each building and its occupants –runs into obstacles every day. At present 87% of the survey is complete, amounting to 208 household compounds. The area to be surveyed is in total 105,600 square meters, with 248 compounds, and 1056 registered permanent residents. The compensation plan is still being worked out. At present there is a section of homes that cannot be assessed yet, they are waiting for more details on the compensation policy to come out before they agree to the process. As soon as that is done, the demolition and relocation will begin immediately.


konjaku: this is in May, then June. However, six months later:


The demolition and relocation project of Xiaojiahe has at present been obstructed. The reason is that Haidian township has maliciously embezzled ownership of buildings slated to be demolished. The original owners signed contracts under which they would be paid for the buildings, but Haidian township, saying the contracts were under review in a new examination and approval process, seized the rights to the buildings for themselves. Later an informant made clear the reason behind this. It was because Haidian township gave the rights to several buildings set to be demolished in Dashiqiao to Tsinghua University. The owners of those building refused to go along, and camped out in protest in a multii-story office building in Haidian township. At the end of its rope, and to solve the issue, Haidian township then gave the rights to the Xiaojiahe buildings to the Dashiqiao owners (by embezzling the funds set aside for the Xiaojiaje building owners). Now that the truth has come out into the daylight, the villagers of Xiaojiahe have woken up, and the demolition is halted. Ha Ha.

Another blogger’s comment

You all shouldn’t complain about about Peking University as being behind the demolition problem. The real cause of misfortune is the close connection formed between the Xiaojiahe project team and Haidian township. Someone took the funds set aside for the Peking University project and gave them to Haidian township. The appraisal team had already taken their share of the money. At present, Haidian township, in order to placate other aggrieved parties, has embezzled from the Xiaojiahe project. Where is Heaven’s justice? I hope the Beijing Municipal Party Committee and the Xiaojiahe village wake up to the truth soon. If you’re about to sign a contract, don’t be taken in!

konjaku: because of this, it seems the demolition and relocation project of Xiaojiahe was delayed. The next thing I find (another blog) dated 2014, says the demolition took place the previous year, 2013, which means that perhaps there was a delay of two years.


I live close to Xiaojaihe at Zhonghai Fenglian. I have passed by it everyday from childhood and seen all the changes.

They say Xiaojiahe was originally a shabby old village 90 years ago, next to the China Agricultural University. But that’s all nonsense, there was nothing there back then. After the Zhongguancun Industrial Park was built, a large batch of northern floaters who were temporary workers settled there. More technology workers settled there after 2000, following construction of the Shangdi Science and Technology Park.

The villagers used this opportunity to build up their own homes, to three, four, or five stories. The buildings were densely packed, streets narrowed, small stores facing the street carelessly splashed dirty water, wastewater flowed along both sides of Yuanmingyuan Road, garbage was everywhere.

Last year, the majority of Xiaojiahe was demolished in order to make way for the Number 16 subway line. But the strange thing is, the ten or twenty houses of the resisters (nail houses) were not demolished. Four story buildings sit isolated amid the ruins. But many of the villagers relocated long ago.

As construction began on the Number 16 subway line and the Peking Unversity residential quarters began rising from the ground, these lonely nail houses stood out all the more. These are buildings put up by villagers without permits, not 500 meters from the scenic district of Yuanmingyuan. What was left were the larger buildings, four to six stories, not the two or three story ones, perhaps these would cost more to demolish.

I found these photos, of the buildings finally being demolished.




If you built an illegal building, why, when the majority of your neighbors leave, do you not also leave? Is it possible that you demand higher compensation? Are you unwilling to accept the replacement housing, or do think the compensation is insufficient?

I could not possibly act like you in such a reckless way, regardless of the consequences. Maybe the government policy was not good, but 99% of your neighbors accepted it and left.

konjaku: one would expect that is the end of Xiaojiahe. However,  articles in 2013 describes the Xiaojiahe area still operating as before.

Xiaojiahe becomes the new place of residence for the ant tribe –villagers turn from planting vegetables to renting rooms


Reporters Liu Fei, Xiao Yuan. Trainee, Zhao Huiying

As reported in China Voice, Tangjialing, Xiaoyuehe, Xiaojiahe…these have all been locations where the ant tribe has flocked to live. Tangjialing, one of the 50 listed-up villages, has been already transformed from a dirty and disorderly urban village, to a re-made urban district.

However, at present there is still a part of Xiaojiahe shequ, densely packed with illegal buildings, on what were once vegetable fields. These buildings were constructed to rent rooms to migrants. This area is not far from the university, next to busy city roads, and borders on orderly rows of multi-story buildings. This area of rentals from door to door, house to house, is a mire of foul odors, strewn with garbage. It forms a hidden danger to public safety.

Mr Wang: “As a location it is convenient to the Fifth Ring, and to Zhongguocun (Beijing’s silicon valley). Traffic conditions are pretty good too.”

Mr Wang is a temporary laborer who came here four or five years ago, and rents a room here for about 600 yuan a month. He said the peasants who used to grow vegetables here now make more money by putting up buildings on the land and renting rooms to migrants like himself.

The villagers say honestly that there was no profit in growing vegetables, but renting rooms makes their lives much easier. The buildings they construct are not standard. They have no proof of property rights. When they rent, they don’t use a contract. The person that wants to rent simply gives a cash deposit of 100 yuan, then shows up on the appointed day.

The majority of these buildings are brick. Going inside, there are can be ten, or even up to thirty rooms. Various odds and ends are on the floor, and on the wall are posted yellowing warning notices from the police and fire department. The narrow paths that link the buildings are winding and zig-zagged, there are many tunnels through which a person can barely pass. After it rains, the dirt roads turn to a muddy mire, and there is a stench from escaping sewage.

In going about interviewing people, we reporters have found that the rental rooms are densely packed, there are many people living in a confined space, the roads are meandering, and at night there are no streetlights. Gas, fire, electricity–the hidden dangers are frightful to contemplate. In this urban-rural zone outside the fifth ring, who has managing authority?

In answer to this question, tenants say: last year, City Management personnel inspected here for one period of time. During the day they sat there, and did not let anyone proceed with building [illegal buildings or additions to buildings]. People waited till they left, then began building again. In general they did not make anyone dismantle anything they had built, just prevented them from building. Sometimes they made people tear down a section of a recently constructed second story, but the people waited till they were gone and just rebuilt it.

During the winter, the village committee came and passed out safety information. They knew these buildings were here, that they had been built up on vegetable fields.

(Another tenant:) On a winter’s day, the village neighborhood committee sent people to go door to door to pass out safety information sheets. One was about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning, one was about the danger of old electrical wires causing fires. The village committee people greeted everyone, and inspected for hidden dangers.

Government says: in this urban rural linked zone, City Management, the Neighborhood Committee, and the Town Administration to some extent overlap. Taking Haidian town as the main managerial authority, they are aware of the situation concerning the illegal buildings.

A Haidian town illegal building inspector: this formerly rural area has become covered with illegal buildings, all done without permits. Why don’t we dismantle them then? At present, we cannot act. If we just start dismantling the illegal buildings, the villagers will have nowhere to live. Everywhere there are illegal buildings, and unless the problem is tackled as a whole and there are provisions for all the residents to relocate, only then can the illegal buildings disappear.

Here one can go out one’s door, and there is a food market, one can see a doctor, there is a school one’s child can go to, a short distance away is a small retail district. Traffic is convenient, and rents are cheap. All these factors combine to make this place ideal for members of the ant tribe. However, the dirty and messy environment, poor sanitation, and unsafe construction of buildings present fears that cannot be ignored.

Three years ago, the transformation of Tangjialing began, and many members of the ant tribe had no choice but to look for new digs. Following the Changping subway line toward the north, they encamped in one noisy and chaotic village after another. But even as they moved farther from the city, rents steadily climbed. In the three years since 2010 rents have risen 40 percent overall, in some hot areas as much as 50 percent. The ant tribe had nowhere to rest. Eventually, places like Xiaojiahe came to seem favorable. But how to deal with the hidden dangers of Xiaojiahe? How about finding a way for the ant tribe to live somewhere with some dignity?

Original title: Xiaojiahe is reduced to an urban village –here the ant tribe finds its new “Tangjialing”

Beijing urban village, Xiaojiahe: all the rentals are illegal buildings –they can manage the rent money, but not public safety



author Zhao Xibin

Rents in Beijing have risen every month, for the last 52 months, up to the time of this article. This means recent graduates, probably starting out with little income, have looked to the outer suburbs of the city to find something affordable.

Outside the 5th ring, Xiaojiahe is an urban village offering cheap rents. In graduation season, the rental market heats up, and the village is buzzing with activity. Young faces shuttle back and forth. Some have already rented, others are looking for rooms. Whether these illegal buildings are safe or not does not enter into their minds –it’s the price they care about.

This reporter went to Xiaojiahe to investigate why urban villages existing as rentals for recent college graduates, like Tangjialing, [the first place these graduates congregated, before it was demolished] keep replicating themselves.

Grease stains seep across the yellow cloth filled with chunks of meat, and there is a small fan hanging above the cloth to drive away flies and mosquitos. The meat vender’s stall is next to a fruit stand, next to grocery store –all crowded together. The smell of garbage and effluent water attacks the nostrils of passersby.

Inside Xiaojiahe village, 200 meters north of the bridge marking the Fifth Ring, it is pretty hard to find any one-story house without a rental sign posted on the wall. Other signs sprout up along the sides of the road. There are many two or three story additions, added by the owner. A Mr Zhao said this started four years ago. “We built up to add 20 rooms. The cheapest is 550 yuan a month ($83). Right now we have two rooms for rent.”

Inside each ten meter square room along a long corridor, there is one bed, one simple wardrobe, and one table. This is standard. Mr Li, 24 years old, had just rented a second-story room. He spread out the bedding he had used in his college years on the bed, and put a washbasin under the bed. A plastic box held his clothes. The last article to unpack was a few books, which he placed where he liked, beside the bed.

There was one 80 centimeter fan, and a window 50 centimeters high. The sunlight, passing through the metal grating put on the window to prevent theft, required a great effort to get into the room at all. Every window in Xiaojiahe has this metal grating, and the space between buildings can be less than a half meter.

“Many live here because it is close to the jobs in Zhongguancun, and rents are cheap.” There are a number of public transportation lines from Xiaojiahe that go toward Zhongguancun. Rent is 600 yuan a month, with 60 yuan for internet and 40 yuan for water and electricity.

Despite the yellowing notices posted from the fire department, the rental buildings are not equipped with a single fire extinguisher. Electric wires snake into rooms in a disordered way. Many rooms have induction cookers, electric kettles, or other electric devices, but the power strips provided are not in good shape. this creates a hidden danger, but Mr Li was not concerned. “These problems are minor. What matters is that the rent is good, and the location is great.”

Just as on every other day, Hu Yong waits to squeeze on to the 333 bus for Zhongguancun. Once Hu Yong and all the other office workers are gone, the village is suddenly not crowded. For the villager old Mr Zhao, this is the best time of day. He sits outside the building he built himself, opens the front gate and invites people passing by to come rent the one room he has left. He has twenty rooms to rent in the building, and facing it across the street, five rooms in a one-story house. “I’m 70 years old, and have lived here all my life. My wife and I still live in this village, but our children have all moved away. We’re used to it here, and don’t think of moving away. We just stay to mind our buildings.”

At present migrant tenants made up 80 percent of the village population. The remaining 20% of villagers is mostly older people. The young people has gone to buy or rent rooms in the city. Mr Zhao says he gives most of the profit he gets from renting rooms to his children, “We two old people don’t spend that much on ourselves.” In the village there is only an internet café and a billiards hall, and no other recreational facilities. “Young people don’t want to live here. They go into the city, and don’t return.”

Mr Zhao said it cost him about 300,000 yuan to construct his building four years ago. Altogether he has 30 rooms to rent, and calculating his rental income and his costs, he has made 235,000 yuan a year. ($35,000 dollars)

This reporter found that in general rooms rent from between 400 to 800 yuan a month. In many cases the rooms are completely dark, with no sunlight getting in even on a clear day.

However, there is one section in Xiaojiahe of single-story residential buildings, which have all been built together in a uniform fashion, and are well-maintained and managed. In each building there are some fifteen families renting, amounting to a total of one hundred families in total in the whole section. A tenant said he works for a private company in Zhongguancun, and was one of the first to rent here. He said the landlord rents the land from the village and pays the village a yearly fixed amount, and has constructed the buildings to rent to workers. Since the rent is 650 yuan, he gets an initial income of 700 thousand yuan a year ($106,000).

A Xiaojiahe neighborhood committee staff member admitted that although there have been attempts to get villagers to stop building illegal buildings, they only stop work when being observed, then continue again afterwards. Since they can make a profit of 200,000 to 300,000 yuan thousand a year. (30 to 45 thousand dollars). However, these illegal buildings will not be part of the compensation package when the village relocates [only the original surface area of the home will be compensated for].

In the eyes of the villagers, the buildings they constructed give them an income which they will no longer have when the village is demolished, and they should be compensated for those buildings too. “In short, renting out these buildings is a business which produces a steady income year after year–without any losses.”

There are a number of other villages dispersed in nooks and crannies of the city which are driven by the market demand for cheap rents to transform themelves in the same way as Xiaojiahe.

At the end of last year, I participated in a project to survey Xiaojiahe shequ.


Xiaojiahe bus routes. It take twenty to thirty minutes to get to Zhongguancun.

Inside the village, besides the rooms for rent which the villagers have built themselves, there are in two places more specialized one-story housing built specifically to rent, as an investment. One was originally old-people’s housing that has been renovated, the other is a newly constructed development built where ducks used to be raised. I followed several college graduates who were doing their year of practical training as they looked for rooms to rent. I had not seen before these rows of standardized housing. But apart from rooms to live in, there are no other facilities. At dawn every morning there are long lines to use the public latrines.


one row of standardized housing


another development


college graduates waiting for the landlord


the inside of a room for rent

konjaku: it seems that some parts of Xiaojiahe were demolished, but other parts continued to function as before. This long, detailed article is a sensitive portrayal of Xiaojiahe after demolition –of surviving urban sections in which people continue to live, between high-rises and ruins, knowing that everything may be temporary.

Xiaojiahe: the A and B sides of an isolated island in the city

Portable buildings hidden in rubble, glimpsed from the expressway just inside the Fifth Ring, what remains of Xiaojiahe still has the maximum possible density of people that can crowd into the available space. There are all kinds of people here, not just northern floaters. The old and the young, permanent residents and migrants, the poor and the well-off: although their lives are interwoven, they live in two separate realities.

After the demolition and relocation, the Xiaojiahe shequ population shrank from 32,000 to 12,000 people. Although now more people packed into less space, the population ratio did not change substantially: residents and migrants were still at a 1:9 ratio, that is, an “inverted population ratio” in which there were ten times as many members of the floating population. Meandering inward from the 5th ring, the main road branches off into countless side roads, like branches and twigs from a tree, encompassing some 2200 or more families making a life here.


The village is like an old phonograph record with an A side and B side, with each side playing utterly different types of music.

Standing before a very short alley, a German shepherd guards the alley entrance, showing its teeth. Inside this alley ten meters long, five families live.

Wang Li is a full-time housewife. A graduate of a three year college, she married and now has a two-and-a-half year old son. Her twenty-something husband came to Beijing for temporary jobs, now they have opened a business together selling advertising billboards. Her husband often drives to far-off places to drum up business, so she has plenty of free time on her own.

In order that the family can spend time together, they all go in the car on deliveries.

Her son had made a line of several toy cars, and left them sitting there. A social worker, who visits families with children in the area, asked “Why don’t the cars move?” He answers, “They are stuck in a traffic jam.” Not yet three, and he already understands the concept of traffic jams.

In eight years, the rent has gone from 500 yuan a month to 1300. This increase of about three times is at the same pace as the rate of increase of China’s GDP, but this household of three is unable to keep up that pace. The one story house they rent still does not have a kitchen, or a bathroom, it is just ten square meters in all. A bunk bed takes up half the space, they store things on the top level and sleep on the bottom. Opposite that is a two square meter table on which they keep their tv and the rest of the personal items they use daily. Their door opens into a narrow corridor, in which barely two people can pass. From the eaves they hang washed clothes to dry, which they have to be careful not to knock down every time they go in and out.

When children of Xiaojiahe shequ reach school age, they can go to the village primary school, but Wang Li is thinking of taking her son back to her home town instead. She calculates that if she stays, it will cost 10,000 yuan year for nursery school and kindergarden, and 20,000 to 30,000 yuan (4600 dollars) to enter primary school. This is because of the necessity for gifts: “to enter Xiaojiahe Primary School you have to give the teachers a present, and enter through the back door.” Wang Li thinks it will be difficult to raise this much money. If she goes back to Hebei, they can save all the money they would have to pay on cash gifts, and the school fee is half as much. “Maybe we will go back home then.” But she hesitates: “The quality of education is better here in Beijing.” Also, she has read in books and on websites devoted to child rearing, that ‘it is better if the husband also participates in the child’s education, and when it’s a boy, the husband’s influence can be different from the mother’s.’

Beyond the rows of one-story houses, in one corner of Xiaojiahe shequ, there is a small two-story building. More than twenty families live here. Most are three-person families, but a few are couples with no children. Next to the staircase on the second floor, Wang Shuang lives with her family of four.

Compared to Wang Li, Wang Shuang seems more tired. She not only has to do all the housework, but she also must contribute to the family income. She works as a staffing go-between for a real estate company in Dongcheng. Her husband is a real estate seller. Her father-in-law works for the China Road and Bridge Corporation, and is away most of the year, while her mother-in-law lives at home, and does not work. Since there are three working and supporting the family, they are “worse off than some, but better off than others.”


Counting the time when she first came to Beijing to go to a three-year college starting in 2003, Wang Shuang has been here in the city for twelve years. Originally she is from Hengshui city, Anping county, Hebei province. Except for her, the other members of the family are now registered in Beijing. Originally they lived in Erlizhuang village (in Haidian) but moved to Xiaojiahe shequ when Erlixhuang was demolished.

“They say here is going to be demolished also, so we just live one day at a time.” Except that the road outside our house is not in good shape, Xiaojiahe in general is not bad. For the couple, transportation to their jobs is convenient, taking about one hour. They can afford to buy a small car, but because they have not won in the Beijing license plate lottery, they have put off buying. They live in a two room residence, with central heating. The heating works well, and the utility fee for it is 800 yuan a month.

Unlike Wang Li, Wang Shuang has her own kitchen and toilet. Her landlord provided beds, but Wang Shuang decided they were not of good quality and bought new beds to replace them. “We don’t think we’ll be living here for long, so we haven’t done anything else to fix this place up.” There’s no furniture except for two tables and a cabinet, and the walls are not painted. When they moved here they assumed it was temporary, and before they knew it nine years had passed.

The child of Wang Li and his small friends are growing up in this alley. They stare with curiosity at the stacks of charcoal honeycomb briquettes (for heating homes), and the fierce icicles on the eaves. From one year to another, they chase each other through the crowded alleyway, dodging the traffic, but eventually, they will be old enough to start school.

The Two Schools

Walking along the road, deeper into Xiaojiahe shequ, on all sides it is bleak and desolate. But exactly at noon several children appear, with flushed cheeks, and enthusiastically they point out the direction to their school. “Go straight on this road, and you’ll come to it. Our school is next to the Xiaojiahe Primary School.” The child who said this then took a breath, sucking up the mucus streaming out of his nose, and ran home for lunch. Soon the children re-emerged, and wearing cotton-padded clothes ran back to their school. There school is called Fenghua Aixin Xiwang primary school (Fengua, talent, Aixin, compassion, Xiwang, hope).

Fenghua School is not in a designated school site, but in a rented compound of buildings surrounded by a courtyard. The classrooms are simple, the walls unpainted. The exterior is painted with crude colorful paintings, to generate a warm atmosphere, but the paint is peeling. Children in muti-colored outfits running crazily around a large tree in the central courtyard, are not a bit shy of strangers. A stranger can readily join in their game, and chase and be chased. “Help me get away, Pangzi (fatty)! He is after me” they call out.



These children’s parents for the most part members of the floating population, who sell fruit at stalls on the road.

At noon the children line up in front of the library. Since the school is small, the library serves as their dining area. A ladleful of steaming potatoes goes in their bowls, and from the kitchen lady’s hand each receives one white steamed bun. “No matter what, we give them a good meal,” says the principal. This costs 160 yuan a month, which goes to paying the salaries of the kitchen staff. But perhaps not all the children find it tasty. One boy only eats half his bun, and when the teacher is not looking he upturns his bowl of potatoes into the garbage, then goes off in the direction of a snack shop.

Some children take their food to the classroom, others eat under the open sky. The ground still is still frozen, and some child slip and fall on icy patches. There are only one or two adults helping out, and sometimes they are too busy to manage everything.

The Fenghua school was started by a Ms Liang and her husband. Originally it was a child-care center. Ms Liang, who was working as a private tutor, saw that the Xiaojiahe Primary School did not admit the children of migrants, so she began teaching them, starting with five children. As the number of children increased, the Head of Xiaojiahe shequ saw the need for a new school, and in 1997 Ms Liang founded Fenghua School.

At present the threshold to get into the public school, Xiaojiahe Primary School, has been lowered, requiring only that applicants have made payments in the social insurance “five-in-one” (old age, medical, unemployment, industrial injury, and child-bearing), and social security. But still the enrollment in Fenghua School has steadily increased. The school has ten classes, and there are more than fifty students in each class. Although the students may come to Fenghua school by different routes, most have one thing in common: they are not entered into the national school registry. Until recently, Fenghua School was not a recognized school in the school system, and graduates had to face the same requirements (proof that they paid social insurance) to get into middle school as needed for Xiajiahe Primary School. Students pay 2000 yuan for each semester.

There are eleven teachers, and five other staff members, making sixteen in all. The certified teachers, who make 2000 yuan a month, are mostly female, recruited through (a classified ads website). The teachers start class at 7:20 in the morning, and the students are let out at 3:30. The teachers teach the main subjects– reading and writing, math, and English –in the morning, and the afternoon classes are taught by volunteers. “There are many college students who come and help us. We provide them with lesson plans.” These volunteers come from elite colleges and universities in Beijing — Beijing University, Minzu University of China, China Woman’s University, etc. “Without these volunteers helping with the workload, our teachers would be overwhelmed.”

He Yuping, who started in 2006, is considered the school’s “senior teacher.” He is the one in charge when the principal is not there. On work days, he lives in a room just ten meters square in the school office, sparsely furnished. The lock to the door is broken, and anyone with a wire could easily force their way in and steal the school’s valuable equipment: a laptop computer and a monitor for the school’s three security cameras.

Xiaojiahe Primary School and Fenghua School are separated from each other by one building, but to the students, they are in two different worlds.

While the road in front of Xiaojiahe Primary School’s front gate has turned into a pool of mud after last night’s rain, its freshly painted red walls and black entrance gate are imposing.


He Jiahao,a third-grader, is from a Hebei family. He went to Fenghua for first grade, but then transferred here. Like the other students, he wears a green and white uniform, with a red Young Pioneer’s scarf. When asked how the facilities are, he answers, “Great!” He says they fix up and repaint the classrooms after every semester. The classrooms have two air-conditioners –one on front and one in back — an electric fan, and central heating in the winter. They are also outfitted with the latest media equipment. Besides the usual course of studies, the students also have extra-curricular activities such as learning to play the hulusi (gourd flute), do dakuaiban (oral storytelling accompanied by wooden clappers), play soccer, or sing in chorus. Every semester they have field trips to museums, or other such places. As a school official said. “Under the blue sky, they grow up together.” In this school the children of migrants can enjoy the same education as Beijing schoolchildren.

At present Xiaojiahe Primary School has 1189 children, of which 23 are from Beijing permanent resident families. The rest, 98 percent, comes from the floating population. A School staff member explained: “We are a state-run school. The State Education Commission has stipulated that we cannot separate resident children from migrant children. If they come to the school to apply, we explain the procedure and let them know they have equal rights to an education under the national policy.” Starting in 2011, the Haidian State Education Commission promised that if migrant families transacted admissions procedures, their children could attend public schools on a temporary basis, without paying an extra fee. This has brought about criticism from some resident families.

In 2014 Beijing city introduced a new policy of school district partitioning. When Xiaojiahe became one of the district schools [drawing students from a wide area around it], some were shocked, because the neighborhood around it is so dilapidated. After families went to look at the school, internet sites were flooded with complaints from residents. How could their precious children be sent to such a place? A school spokesperson responded,” Yes, there are some problems. But we will not deny migrant children the right to get what you want for your own families –a good education. They too deserve the nine-year compulsory education.”

When school ends, the children come pouring out, then stand around in groups of two or three, talking. Their parents are busy with work, they must make their way home by themselves. Fortunately, they know these narrow streets well.

The Two Clinics

Wang Li’s son, Qi Zeyang, is always in her thoughts. Besides the necessities of daily life and school fees, there are other unexpected expenses. When Qi Zeyang has a cold for several days, they take him to the regular clinic, and they usually want to do an x-ray and give him intravenous fluids. In the most severe case. Qi Zeyang was hospitalized for ten days, and the bill was 9000 yuan, including hormones and nutritional supplements. Even with the 1000 yuan medical expense subsidy, this was hard for them to pay. However, this does not mean Wang Li is willing to take her child to be seen at the “black clinic.” She would rather get along, with the family tightening its belt for a while. But in Xiaojiahe shequ, the majority of people are different from Wang Li, and they are prefer going to the black clinic. Not only are the medicines cheaper, but one can have an intravenous treatment, which causes minor illnesses to be cured faster –and the patient then loses less time and money away from work.

Going further down the main road, a green sign draws one’s attention to the “Shixiangling Outpatient Clinic.” Through the window, one can look in and see several patients having intravenous drip treatments. The clinic is not large, with just one attendant. There are two doctors who alternate mornings and afternoons, and not enough nurses. At the entrance there is posted an add for a nurse, “Need for several nurses, salary to be negotiated.” When this reporter asked about the need for nurses and the doctors’ qualifications, the doctor on duty spoke with caution. “We are not the only black clinic around here — why don’t you go ask at one of the others?”

Although they always take their child to the regular clinic, when Wang Li or her husband have a minor illness, they go to the black clinic. “The doctors there have a good reputation, and you don’t have to wait in line to have lab tests in order to get a prescription. ” This saves them time. Even though they have medical insurance if they go to the regular clinic, “the insurance refund is not that much.”

Because there is an agreement on the district level that illegal clinics cannot operate in buildings zoned as residential homes, this clinic is inside a compound managed by the village committee, not by the residential district. It is safe as long as the village committee does not report it to the higher authorities.

The regular clinic is on the main road, crowded with traffic, in a one-story building shared with the offices of the neighborhood committee. Here the patients are far fewer. At ten in the morning, there is no one having an intravenous drip. “Many migrants come, saying they have a cold and want an intravenous infusion. We tell them it won’t work, and may have adverse side-effects, and that they should just take cold medicine. Then they leave, and go over there” (to the black clinic). The doctor said there is nothing she can do.With an intravenous treatment, one is more likely to have an allergic reaction, therefore it shouldn’t be used for things like colds. “If there is an oral medication, you don’t need an injection. If there is an appropriate injection, than you don’t need intravenous infusions. This is our principle.” This is a WHO guideline, which informs their practice. The doctors on the staff rotate between different clinics, the nurse is a graduate of a three-year college.

The antibiotic cephalosporin costs 22 yuan at that the black clinic, 22 yuan at the regular clinic. “Our drugs meet the national standard, but over there you have only their word. Our drugs are produced by Tong Ren Tang (China’s largest pharmaceutical company), if you look at the batch numbers of their drugs, you can tell they are counterfeit. When migrants come here, they don’t want to pay the registration fee of fifty cents, so they go over there instead. As for the drugs, ours would cost the same if they had a health insurance card and could get a refund, but as migrants, they don’t have the card (supplied by employers to regular employees) and have to pay full price.”

In the next half-hour three patients came to the regular clinic to have a prescription filled, and they all had a health insurance card. One of these, a 60 year old Beijing “uncle” said,, “I have a chronic condition, so I come here often to have my prescription filled — I live close by, so its very convenient.” Asked if he would go to the other clinic if this was was closed, he answered, “Absolutely not!” But migrants living in the area like Wang Li, don’t consider this regular clinic as being for them. In their minds it is “too costly” and “for residents only.” Even if the neighborhood committee began publicizing this clinic with a slogan like “Equal healthcare for all,” it is unlikely this would change the firm image which is set in their minds, and which they will pass down to the next generation. Considered this way, the regular clinic cannot escape its own “sickness.”

The weather gets colder, and at the entrance to the laundry opposite the neighborhood committee office, dirty water that has spilled out into the street congeals into ice. On the street people wrapped in cotton-padded clothes try to hurry, but make their way cautiously. The dumplings restaurant proprietor happily anticipates good business –there is nothing better on a day like today than a hot bowl of steaming dumplings. When his seventeen year old son comes home at noon for lunch, his wife hurries the boy inside –”it’s cold out there” –and brings him a bowl of dumplings. There are just a few tables, and on the menu on the wall, the prices have been rubbed out and changed several times.

The husband and wife when run the dumpling store came from te northeast 15 years ago. When they first came, they thought there are many opportunities to succeed in Beijing. They started with a twenty square meter store, selling dumplings and other northeastern dishes, and after a while they thought they could move to a thirty square meter store.

Because nearby is the construction site of replacement housing for the villagers, for several years the workers from that project come to eat lunch, and business had been good. But the buildings were quickly finished, and now there are fewer customers. “Usually a business like this makes 100000 yuan a year ($15,400 ), but last year we made twice that. But when you earn a lot, you spend a lot– life in Beijing is expensive, and the New Year’s holiday is a time when you spend a lot.”

Their prices are low. Thirty meat- and vegetable-filled dumplings are 14 yuan, vegetarian dumplings are 8 yuan. “Because we use only the best ingredients, our son loves the meat-filled dumplings.” The wife’s voice is gentle with affection. Their son is studying animation at Beijing Information Science School. They are thinking of sending him home to go to a regular senior middle school, but he wants to stay in Beijing, where his friends are, and attend an occupational middle school. The parents say they are willing to respect his choice. He came with them to Beijing when he was two years old, and he has only been back home for New Year’s once a year since then. When he speaks he doesn’t have the accent of his hometown, but rather the speech of Beijing alleyways.

If Wang Li’s son doesn’t go back with his mother to Hebei to start school but stays here in Beijing, when he becomes seventeen, he’ll be just like this boy. in love with the city brimming with opportunities and challenges. There are many hundreds here, like Wang Li and Wang Shuang, At dawn they get up and walk out of the long alley into the cramped streets, at night they crawl back and curl up in a narrow bed. Like Wang Shuang, they cannot help but sigh and think, “I never thought I would live here this long.”

































Village # 13 Houying

konjaku: Village #13 is Houying village in the Haidian district. Here are some photographs taken by “Zhongguancun” taken in 2010.



The village partially demolished


The banner reads in part, “Leave behind the dirty messy and bad Houying, and move to multi-story residential buildings.”


According to the following government notice, Houying village will become part of the green zone, and the residents will be compensated according to the “Beiwu model.” Apparently Houying villagers will be able to move into replacement housing near the old village site. Perhaps there will also be some commercial development on the edge of the green zone, and, following the Beiwu model, the villagers will be shareholders receiving some portion of the profits.


Concerning the 50 listed-up villages in Beijing, in Haidian this actually involves eight mapped-out areas in comprising 20 natural villages. These eight areas are:

Dongshengxiang Bajia village area 八家村片区
Shijiqing town Zhenxing shequ area 四季青镇振兴社区片区
Mentou village area 门头村社区片区
Zhongwu village area 中坞村片区
Liulangzhuang village area 海淀乡六郎庄村片区、
Xiaojiahe village area 肖家河社区片区
Houying village area 后营村片区
Tangjialing village area 西北旺镇唐家岭片区

These eight areas in total comprise 998.36 hectares (one hectare is about the size of a baseball field), with 29,000 permanent residents, and 211,800 members of the floating population. These eight areas are on the periphery of the Zhongguancun National Demonstration Zone (Zhongguancun Science Park). A large quantity of illegal buildings have sprung up, as many migrants have collected here, bringing about a related set of problems in public security, the environment, traffic, and fire prevention.
Haidian District has set up a district-level leadership office. They have set up a building plan, a guaranteed capital fund, an employment placement office, a media and public relations outlet, a secure and stable construction labor group, supervisory and management functions, an inspection process, an information and feedback channel, and an established division of responsibility among the three levels of district, town and village, coordinating all job departments.

The urban redevelopment project has adopted four models: the format for Bajia village will be land held in reserve for urban development. The plan calls for 58 hectares of land designated for this purpose: 330,000 square meters for replacement housing on the village site, and 120,000 square meters for village and town industry (mix of agriculture and commerce), improving housing conditions for the residents. Xiaojiahe shequ and Zhongwu village will be a major priority project of relocation housing: 120,000 square meters will go to replacement housing for villagers, 60,000 for commercial development, and 380,000 square meters will go to construct housing for Beijing University faculty, the result of a contract between Haidian district and Beijing University signed in 2009-12.

The villages of Liulangzhuang, Houying, and Tangjialing will become part of the green zone, and the villagers will exchange their homesteads for new residences according to the “Beiwu model.” Zhenxing shequ and Mentoucun shequ will adopt the “one village –one policy” model.

When the Haidian district transformation of these eight areas is completed, 140 hectares will become part of the green zone, and 120 hectares will be used for Qinghua University and Beijing University building projects, as well as area devoted to the South to North Water Diverting Project. Accelerating intensive use of the land, the approximately 10 square kilometers of the urban-rural transformation zone will take on an entirely new look. The quality of life of the common people will be improved, upgrading the collective economy will be sped up, and the environment of the central area of the Zhongguancun Creative Demonstration Zone will go one step further in quality.

land held in reserve ( “urban district land in joint reserve”) 市区土地联储
(message board for local leaders)

Secretary Zhao, Hello! There are eight village-areas that will be transformed this year (in Haidian district), and among these one is the village in which my home is, Houying shequ. How will the transformation process work? For the original villages, what is the plan? We will move back to new multi-story residences on the old village site, then how will we earn a livelihood?

No reply yet

According to reports, the Houying village land that will be used for construction of replacement housing (the villagers will live at or near the old village site) has now been completely cleared. This year, construction will also begin for Liulangzhuang villagers at the old village site.

Following the demolition of Tangjialing, the floating population in the Zhongguancun area drfited to Liulangzhuang. But within this year all residents of Liulangzhuang will move out, and the village will be demolished. At the end of the year, the 4600 residents will move into the New Village. According to what is known, Liulangzhuang New Village will be in Houying north village, about 6 kilometers from the old village.


Village #12 Zhengxing shequ

konjaku: Village # 12 in the Haidian district is Zhenxing shequ. Shequ ( literally, “community”) here replaces the designation of village. Since this is not about shequ as such, I continue to use the term village, for convenience.

I was only able to find the following article, which is not about the village (or shequ) as a whole, but about the problems of negotiating compensation experienced by businesses that have rented land in the villages slated for redevelopment. Usually the focus in demolishing a village is on the relocation and compensation of the village residents, not the businesses that just happen to be in the village because they have leased some land and built a factory or a production center.

In urban renovation on this scale, involving fifty villages, possibly it is just not feasible to completely compensate every business for all moving costs, loss of facilities, and the suspension of doing business while they relocate. But this article assumes it is possible and takes the position that it is the government’s responsibility. It criticizes “village autonomy,” which, as we have seen, was a major part of the Beiwu model, as a way that villagers could be assured of a say in the process, and receive a share of the profits from future development on village land. While that seems a good thing for village residents, the implications to all parties involved is unclear. To start with, it is not clear to anyone how much autonomy there is or should be in “village autonomy.”

The renovation projects are going faster than the determination of laws or rules to govern the process. But if you are transforming large sections of society in one fell swoop from one situation (village life) to a completely different one ( multi-story complexes surrounded by a green zone) could any set of laws or regulations cover every eventuality of the transition?

Village redevelopment in the Beijing suburbs: “Village autonomy” is driving out lessees
–Law specialists say a public hearing process is needed


photo: The Zhengxing village committee headquarters in 2008 (pre-demolition, photo by Zhongguancun)


This reporter went to the listed up villages project office, and discovered that because of disputes over compensation rates between the village government and the businesses which have rented land from the villages operating within the redevelopment project zone, some villages governments are, under the pretext of exercising “village autonomy,” forcibly driving out tenants.

In recent years our country has energetically expanded the project of transforming old villages. However, land requisition has increasingly triggered more and more contradictions and clashes. In some places the manner of requisitioning land goes against regulations, and violates the rights of villagers and businesses which are renting the land. This leads to appeals to higher authorities, and other sorts of incidents. According to many specialists interviewed by this reporter, the process of requisitioning land in our country lacks an adequate public hearing process. In determining compensation rates, there should be an independent scientific evaluation as part of the process, and after disputes arise, the aggrieved parties lack a communication channel in the government to appeal to for justice. Thus it is extremely easy for conflicts to arise. Gradually these lacks in the system must be filled in, to protect the interests of all those involved.

Beginning in 2010, Beijing city announced the tranformation of 50 “listed-up villages,” and one of these was Zhenxing shequ in Shijiqing town in Haidian district. In the 6th month of that year, the Zhenxing village committee issued a notice informing all businesses in the affected area that they had to move out by the end of the 9th month. At the beginning of 2011, the village committee posted a notice describing the area to be demolished, and demanding that all village households within the affected area sign contracts agreeing to relocate and assenting to the compensation amount. But the announcement said nothing about the businesses and what sort of compensation they might expect.

The Shiji Tianyuan Food Corporation is a family-owned business. They signed a lease with the village corporation for a one-acre site for 30 years. The lease expires in 2026. After signing the lease, the Shiji tanyuan Food Corporation used its own capital to build a factory. After receiving the demolition notice, they stopped taking orders, and began to negotiate the compensation details, as well as preparing to move. But what the company head Ren Changru could not imagine, was that the village representative would only offer to return a few years of rent, plus moving expenses of 600,000 yuan. Ren Changru calculated the loss to his business from moving to be 15 to 20 million yuan. After negotiations through mediators, the village offered 3 million yuan, and said it couldn’t go any higher.

In the 50 listed-up villages, the land occupied by homesteads is 12 square kilometers, but that occupied by businesses –township and village enterprises — is 13 square kilometers.


Ren Changru did not accept the village compensation proposal, and now the negotiations are at a standstill, having been referred to a higher authority. Meanwhile, the Zhenxing redevelopment project is moving along vigorously. New multi-story buildings are sprouting out of the ground, and the villagers are giving up their homes and waiting to move in to these new buildings.

Ren Changru does not understand why the government doesn’t have a unified, consistent compensation standard, announced publicly for all to see. Instead, Zhenxing shequ repeatedly says this is a matter of village autonomy, “and whatever the village decides is what you get.” It is clear to him that negotiating with the village is not going anywhere, after many attempts.

The law on village autonomy stipulates that villagers have the authority to determine their own interests, including compensation. Told this, Ren Changru says there is a still a problem with Zhenxing’s actions, because they have not publicly announced anything whatever about how they are deciding on compensations, whether they have actually had an assembly to discuss these issues, what their guidelines are, and what evidence or testimony they consider in making determinations.

The other day a reporter interviewed the Zhenxing Redevelopment Project deputy, to get the village committee’s side of the dispute. The deputy said, at present there is definitely not any such unified compensation standard, but that a “higher authority” (indicating the Shijiqing town urban transformation project corporation), had transmitted the general sentiment that “the one responsible for the child is the parent” (taking the buildings and assets as the child, it is the business that built them that is responsible for them, not the village), and that they should literally reimburse businesses for the total amount of payments the business had made in the past to the village, and no more. To follow this guideline, Zhenxing shequ put out bids to hire an independent assessor, and plans to give the assessment corporation the responsibility to estimate the amount of the compensation payment.

As this reporter has come to find out, having talks with lessees to requisition their land back, in the name of village autonomy, is just another complication in an already complicated process, and leads to disputes almost every time.

To get a response on the Zhenxing shequ position, this reporter interviewed a lawyer who is a specialist in this area, and he said that the disagreement between the Shiji Tianyuan Food Corporation and Zhenxing shequ was essentially a contract dispute, and Zhenxing was trying to confuse the issue by taking it as a matter of compensation determined by the stipulations of the redevelopment project. The issue in this: when the contract is in force, and one side wants to terminate it prematurely, what are its obligations? If the contract is not a comprehensive document, if there is nothing in the contract about what to do in case of a demolition and relocation project, then one must look at the basic principles of contract law to determine both sides’ duties and obligations.

The lawyer, Li Yan said, “To put it very simply, if you rent land to me, and I build a building on that land to produce goods or operate a business; and if, before the lease has expired, you want to dissolve the contract, you should compensate me for the loss of the building, for any facilities added to the building, for equipment, etc,. But these forms of compensation have nothing to with compensation as determined in the redevelopment project, but are solely concerned with the losses experienced by the lessee because of a premature termination of the contract.”

Li Yan believes that the fact that Zhenxing shequ is using “village autonomy” as a reason to force the businesses to move, is a sign that possibly the government has not issued permission to demolish the buildings. In this listed-up villages project, there are no exact legal stipulations that cover the demolishing and relocation process. Therefore, in the past authorities at the grassroots level have sought out interrelated businesses and negotiated a compensation amount with these businesses that are within the redevelopment zone together. In such cases, the vast majority comply voluntarily. If Zhenxing shequ wants its businesses to move away, it should offer them a rationally acceptable compensation rate.

According to another lawyer, Wang Yong, in general, the compensation paid to businesses is far higher than that paid to residents, because they are reimbursed for their investment in buildings and equipment on the property. Therefore, for Zhenxing shequ to claim, “the one responsible for the child is the parent,” is to go against the law. They should follow their duty and pay back any remaining sums under the contract and a reasonable compensation.To do anything less is not equitable, and not within the spirit of the original contract.

Li Yan said the Shiji Tianyuan Food Corporation has the option to take Zhenxing shequ to court for breach of contract. Many other law specialists contacted by this reporter said, our county lacks a public hearing procedure that should be part of the process of requisitioning land. In compensation negotiations, there should be an independent and scientific means of evaluating claims. When disputes arise, peasants and businesses do not have an agency in the government to appeal to, and lack a way for the administration of justice to operate.

listed up villages 挂账村
Zhenxing 振兴
shequ 社区
village and township enterprises乡镇企业

Village # 11: Zhongwu

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.


City shantytown renovation: a few considerations


“Consider parents looking after their children, the sooner you move out, the sooner you will enjoy a good life”


konjaku: it remains to be seen if the effort to “relieve the population pressure” in Beijing by removing the shantytown residents to a new micro-city in the far suburbs, or even by allowing a percentage of them to remain at the transformed site in a gleaming new building, can be fully achieved.

In these accounts, it does not say if the generous compensation and designated housing is only for permanent residents, or not. In the 50 villages, there was an unbalance, in that the number of recent migrants was many times that of the original villagers. In the city shantytowns, we do not know the percentage of recent migrants, or whether, as in the villages, they are being left out of the renewal project and must simply move on. If so, as long as there is cheap housing or a dilapidated neighborhood anywhere in the center of the city, they will return, as a new tide of migrants will also drift in.

Ou Ning writes: “Absolute economic equality is merely an ideal. The real question is to what degree a city accommodates poverty and heterogeneity. Low-income communities are a crucial component of the city. They accept and accommodate the minority poor, offering breathing room and low-cost opportunities for survival. At the same time they minimize problems of identification and help diffuse potential conflicts with the city’s mainstream population. Furthermore, the smooth operation of the city depends on the migrant populations drawn to such communities to fulfill basic labor demands. For these reasons low-income neighborhoods must not be treated simply as malignant tumors that must be cut away – such an approach does not lead to the building of an ideal city, and if low- income neighborhoods are removed they will inevitably crop up elsewhere. There is always a degree of poverty in the world. This is not a fact that can be swept away by globalization or by technological advancements, because difference and multiplicity are obstinate and intrinsic qualities of our world.

Ou Ning, “Street Life in Da Zha Lan”, Regenerating Culture and Society: Architecture, Art and Urban Style within the Global Politics of City-Branding, edited by Jonathan Harris and Richard J. Williams, published by Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2011.

See also

These accounts of shantytown renovation also do not describe what the living situation of the residents will be like after the change. The villagers of the 50 villages who lose their land and move to “better” living conditions in a residential complex worry about having a steady income. Even if they are given generous subsidies, at some point the money may run out. The luckier ones are given an extra residential unit as their own property, to rent out for income. How about the urban residents? If they move to a vast residential development outside the city proper, what will they do? If they return to a new Guangyuanli or Wangtan composed of gleaming structures set in a modern urban high-technology park, how will they live?

The city government would not have set up a digital display board on the Guangyuanli renovation on a public street if it was not confident that a large percentage of residents would sign contracts. Although the residents were offered generous terms, the principle for compensation is the same as the villages –the size of one’s new residence is determined as a straight exchange for the surface area of one’s old residence –anything over that the resident has to pay for (even if this is partially subsidized). The villagers of the 50 villages have on average three times the living space of the shantytown resident, but the urban shantytown households are also multi-generational families. More than the villagers, the urban residents have to worry if they will end up as three generations living in a one-bedroom apartment. As we saw, the principal concern of a couple with one child, is to give their child his or her own room in which to study.

While a lot of care appears to have been taken with the larger shantytown transformation projects –Wangtan and Guanyuangli–others are stalled. The residents of West Zhongshili and Chongwai #6 are still waiting for a good outcome.



The last days of Guangyuanli

A blogger, Xuzhifeng, took photos on Guangyuanli’s “last day.”

2016-06-30, in the Guangyuanli residential district, the old and worn out buildings have already been vacated, Mr Wang Jie said, “ Tomorrow, they will begin razing everything to the ground. We lived in our home here for more than thirty years, for the last time we are looking around for anything of value we can bring away. Since I grew up here, it is a bit hard to let go.”
The barbershop owner, who had been in business here for more than ten years, said, “Tomorrow my small shop will be torn down, but at least on my last day I can still give a haircut to some of my old customers.”
An old man who was tidying up his things said, “ We welcome the improvements. But if we move back here to the same address, with a residence which is the same surface area as what we had before, in that exchange we will have a one-room apartment, which is not enough for our family. This is what city transformation comes down to.”
This is one of the biggest shantytown renovations in Beijing this year, involving more than 5600 households altogether, 2228 in Guangyuanli. Since the third month, residents have been steadily moving out and vacating their homes.




konjaku: in the following article shantytown renovation in Guangyuanli is linked to something larger: the mechanization of certain tasks in the modernizing city, making life more convenient. This example is hard to argue with.

Collecting from latrines for the last time in Guangyuanli

With a ladle in one hand, and a bucket of excrement in the other, hobbling across the detritus left after the buildings of Guangyuanli have been torn down — it is not hard to imagine how difficult a job this is


A rusted and spotted ladle, an iron bucket, a three wheeled cart to hold the collected excrement –these have been the tools of the trade, unchanged for half a century…as society changes, these too will pass into history


The squad leader teaches the pair how to use the new technology. In the future, they will drive the brand-new vacuum truck, and enjoy the high-speed efficiency and convenience of mechanization.


These two are responsible for Guangyuanli sanxiang (third alley). This long and winding alley has many curves and zig-zags. They have to pull and push the cart from side to side to get to the latrines.


As Li Jun loads excrement in the cart, the stench causes passer-by to cover his nose and hurry away. The job of hauling away excrement is one in which the one gets dirty so the myriad can be clean, but people do not always adequately appreciate this.


When after a busy day the two brothers return to their team headquarters, they rush to the bathhouse, and to their heart’s content wash away their fatigue and the filth.


With the roar of backhoes and excavators, the old and worn-out shantytown is reduced to a heap of rubble.


The two men are resigned to the fact that the old method will disappear, and be replaced by mechanization, but they can’t help feeling a little disappointed.

One ladle, two metal buckets, and a three-wheeled cart…starting with the birth of modern China, these have been the standard tools of the trade for the nightsoil collectors. After half a century, this characteristic scene in Beijing alleyways, is disappearing because of urban development, and specifically the renovation of shantytowns.

Fan Duanyong and Li Jun are two ordinary sanitation workers in Xicheng. They do not sweep the main streets, they do not collect garbage, but deal with something people are reluctant to talk about, “nightsoil.”

At dawn, the conscientious Li Jun gets their equipment ready. Fan Duanyong wipes down their “precious cart.” Then he checks the tires. This rusted and spotted cart shows its weight of years.

With one riding a bicycle, and the other pulling the cart, chatting on the way, the two set out for Sanxiang alley in Guangyuanli. The narrow and long alley is hardly wide enough for two people, and with twists and turns, one cannot see to its end. After going less than 100 meters, Li Jun stops the cart at a cleared-off spot. “The cart cannot go further, and no tube is long enough to reach the latrine, so we have to resort to our old tools, and clean it out bit by bit.”

Forcing open the door of the public toilet, a sharp smell immediately assaults their faces, but the two are unmoved. “ Heck, after all these years, we’re used to it. Putting on a face mask is embarrassing, besides, we’re just not that fussy.”

While one used the ladle to scoop out and transfer contents into the pails, the other keeps the area tidy. In a little while the buckets are full, and Li Jun carrying both buckets on a pole balanced on his shoulders, goes toward the cart. Quickly he pours the contents inside. After a number of repeated trips, the container in the cart is completely full, with up to twenty pailfuls.

Fan Duanyong said, “In Guangyuanli there are in all eighteen bathrooms, some large some small, that need to be cleaned.” When they have finished the first one, the two wipe the sweat off their foreheads, and immediately go on to the next.

On the way, there are the empty houses which the residences have moved out of, and piles of rubble. Carrying their tools, climbing up and down, the two arrive at a dry latrine, now no longer used, with no water at all. “Even though no one is using it, we come and check it everyday to make sure it is not leaking out or obstructed.” All the morning the two perform the same repetitive tasks. Pushing their cart back and forth, it is clear this is a long, slow job.

Returning to their squad headquarters, they are just in time for the quarter-year distribution of labor-welfare goods [usually gloves, boots, uniforms, flashlights, etc]. Carrying liquid soap and shampoo, they are about to shower, when they get a phone call.

“Our latrine pit is blocked up, can you come and take a look?” Without having a chance to eat a meal, the two went and got their equipment again from the storehouse, and went off, back at work.

Every day when Fan Duanyong and Li Jun finish work, they stop and look around them for a while. The neighborhood of one-story houses which they knew so well is rapidly being demolished by men in coordination with machines. These lanes and alleys will be reborn, and the work they did by hand will be replaced by mechanization.

Fan Duanyong and Li Jun hope that whatever job they have in the future, they can continue to work with both hands to keep the city running smoothly.









Guangyuanli official notices

konjaku: Guangyuanli is the largest shantytown in Beijing Xicheng district which is being renovated, beginning in 2016. See previous post for details.


On the Guangyuanli project website one can read notices issued by the government. According to the “Assessment of the Standard Value for Levied Property” dated 2016-03-19, the government offers in compensation 50923 yuan per square meter (the interior area of the resident’s current home). As far as I can tell, this is the same as the going price for new homes in Xicheng in early 2016. (

By mid 2017, prices had doubled, to 113652 yuan.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 10.48.22 AM.png

With inducement awards and other benefits added, this is a lot of money, although the residents apparently have to spend most of it in purchasing their new home. If one has a small home, measured at 30 square meters, at this rate one would still receive over one-and-a-half million yen.

Alhough most residents accepted this offer, some held out. This notice gives them 24 hours to decide:

A sealed letter to the residents 05-17

Our friends, residents of Guangyuanli,

Today 2016-05-17, is the last day to sign a contract in the Guangyuanli renovation project. Those who have not yet done so, should sign a contract before the next 24 hours is up, agreeing to have their property levied and receive a compensation.
Those who have not yet signed, from tomorrow the great benefit of getting inducement awards will disappear, and the project will proceed according to administrative law. In the end, those who do not move out of their homes shall have the administration of justice carried out upon them.

Among those subject to the levy, the 2228 households of Guangyuanli, at present there remain only some tens of households who have not yet signed. In order to ensure the essential benefits for the almost complete majority who have already signed, after the deadline has passed the command post will with all its strength push forward to enforce the law and the orderly administration of justice. The levy and compensation policy cannot be changed for any reason whatsoever, or for any person whatsoever. The remaining residents should by no means listen to and believe rumors, but hold fast to the real and dependable benefits available for their families, and not let themselves suffer a loss that is unnecessary.

After 24 hours, if there are some who still have not signed, the command post will publish and make public the results of those who have and have not signed. At the same time it will establish a network of inquiry, and we request our friends the residents to take down in notes the relevant information on those households which have not signed a contract. Later, as the legal process gets underway, the inquiries will be revisited, to determine if there was anyone who made false statements which had an effect on their compensation final result, and whether these results exceeded the limits set by the policy.

The compensation result for each and every household will be subject to the scrutiny of the entire body of residents, in a completely transparent manner. If there is anyone who has exceeded the compensation amount called for in the policy, this will be exposed in the light of day.and they will be punished severely according to the law.

Our friends the residents, we ask that you earnestly grasp hold of this opportunity that will enable you to improve your lives, and as quickly as possible, sign a contract with the Resident Working Team. Don’t let go of the benefits that should belong to you, and from simply not signing a contract in time losing everything for no good reason.

Guangyuanli Shantytown Renovation Project Command Post (with seal affixed)

original document:


konjaku: for the Guangyuanli renovation project, the residents’ homes and land are levied by the state. For the project to go forward, they must vacate their homes, which will then be demolished in order to build a new multi-story complex on the site. Their homes are levied –this matter is not subject to their approval. However, the state wants them not to resist, but to sign a contract, which besides bringing them material compensation, indicates their agreement to the process. The tension between the involuntary precondition and the voluntary act of signing is evident in this document. The letter addresses the people of Guangyuanli as “our friends the residents”居民朋友们 in several places. But more often in the body of the letter the same people are referred to as beizhengshouren 被征收人, persons subject to the levy, or just “levied persons.”

The document asks the residents to gather information on their neighbors, to find out about and report on those who are unwilling to sign. If there are some people who have managed to sign for a larger compensation than they deserve, by somehow falsifying the surface area of their home or claiming more family members than they actually have, the command post wants their fellow residents to bring these discrepancies to light.

A sidebar states that 2174 households have signed, and 54 remain. That may be the final result.

Residents who do not sign are told they will have “the administration of justice carried out upon them.” However, they are not being threatened with forcible demolition, at least not right away. The following notice indicates that they can still sign and retain some reduced benefits after the deadline.


To our friends the residents who have not yet signed,

If you do not sign a contract before the deadline, 2016-05-17 at midnight, you will lose, at the least
170,000 yuan

(based on a provisional award of 10,000 and a house surface area of 30 square meters)

After that, every day you will lose at least

3000 yuan

By 2016-08-25, you will have lost, at the least

470,000 yuan ($71,000)

The above matter is hereby made public.

Guangyuanli Project Command Post (seal)


After the deadline of 2016-05-17, work on the project began, and the area was sealed off. This notice shows that the Command Post was still tolerant of the presence of residents who had not yet signed.

Please note: management of the project area– it is being strictly sealed off

Our friends the residents,

Taking a step to safeguard the project area under construction and to maintain order, to protect those who have not yet signed contracts and those residents who have not yet moved out, and to keep all property safe, this project shall, as of 2016-05-23, require that all staff members and equipment operators entering or leaving the area show identification, and forbids any workers or staff without fixed duties to enter. During this important construction period, it will strictly control which personnel can enter. From today, we request that those residents who have yet signed contracts, to go as quickly as possible and register with the project work team, also giving them your motor vehicle information. In that way the command post can issue, in a unified manner, certified documents allowing the bearers to go in and out of the project area, and to use their vehicles. This must be completed by 2016-06-01.

We ask that our friends the residents currently living in the project site, to view this with understanding and cooperation, thank you to everyone!

Guangyuanli Shantytown Renovation Command Post
2015-05-23 (seal)

光源里棚户区改造项目 4










Shantytown renovation in central Beijing: Xicheng

konjaku: as was the case in Dongcheng, shantytown areas are close to, or indeed part of, significant historical and historical neighborhoods.

Xicheng District

1.Baizifang and Baiwangzhuang beili.

02-18 (2016) was the first day for residents of Baizifang shacks to sign contracts in the renovation project. A similar project is underway in Baiwangzhuang beili.

Baizifang 白纸坊
Baiwangzhuang beili 百万庄北里

2.Caiyuan street and Zaolin nanli

Xicheng district has announced, that in this renovation project all residents who want to return to live in the original location may do so [trading the space of their original home for space in a multi-story complex]. Those who opt instead for monetary compensation may select from designated housing in Daxing, Fengtai, or Fanshan, with a purchase price of 15,000 to 20,000 per square meter. Those who decide not to purchase the designated housing will get a subsidy of 5000 yuan per square meter on whatever they decide to buy.

Caiyuan St 菜园街
Zaolin nanli 枣林南里


3.Guangyuanli shantytown district renewal project
On 02-18 (2016) the 90 day period for the residents to sign contracts began. This project was set up in such a way that the actual demolition and construction work can only begin when the rate of contracts signed reaches 85%. If they do not reach 85% in the 90 day window, the project is cancelled. However, within a month the percentage of signed contracts was already at 90%.

Guangyuanli 光源里

Contracts reach 90% in Baizifang slum renovation project

03-21 Beijing. In the largest slum renovation project in Xicheng district, including Guangyuanli in Baizifang, Caiyuan Street and Zaolin nanlin, once 85% of residents have signed contracts, the requisition of land can officially start. On 03-21, one month after the announcement was posted, the percentage of contracts signed had already reached 90% Those residents who have signed are now busy with moving out, emptying their houses. (Text and photos: Vision China) Qianlong net


Outside the Baizifang east street Guangyuanli slum renewal office, there is a digital display board that shows in real time the percentage of contracts signed. At present the figure has reached 90.22%.

photo: the digital board. In this photo, the percentage has reached 90.31%. The board shows a current bonus status of 5万 (50,000 yuan), and says that if sixteen more households sign contracts, 1万 (10,000 yuan) will be added to the bonus total –another horizontal red line in the rectangle on the left side. It says there are 58 more days to the deadline. If all households sign, 100%, every household will receive 15万(150,000 yuan, approximately $23,000). From the board, one can guess that 150 to 200 households have not yet signed.


City resident Chen Yuying said his old house in Hongjian nanli has two rooms, and the replacement residence his family will move into in the same general location will be a suite with three rooms. Since the new residence will be larger, they will have to pay 7000 yuan per square meter for the extra space. However, Chen Yuying told the Beijing Youth Report correspondent that with the bonus for moving out before the advance date, the encouragement reward, the rental subsidy for temporary housing,etc., they will still have 200,000 yuan left over. “We have a rental in Jiaomen Xili (between the 3rd and 4th ring) and we are preparing to move in there.”


Once the signed contracts percentage goes over the 85% ceiling (which has already happened), for every new signing, all those residents who have signed contracts will get a one percentage point bonus of 10,000 yuan ($1475). If the percentage of contracts signed reaches 100%, the total bonus the residents will get will become 150,000 yuan.


The Baizifang slum redevelopment project goes on two fronts:1) Guangyuanli, 2) Caiyuan street and Zaolin Nanli. In total it is 29 hectares, with construction comprising 265,400 square meters, involving 5000 households. In the area involved there are 32 spare and economical buildings, 43 old buildings in danger of collapse, mixed in with 3500 one story houses of various types. Demolition on buildings which have been requisitioned once contracts have been completed will start on 04-01.

An official involved in the redevelopment project said that the total of those at present who have chosen the replacement housing built on the same location, like Chen Yuying, is 60%. Others have chosen other designated housing, or just to receive a sum of money. The other designated housing is in Daxing, Fengtai, and Fanshan. The price for those residents who choose this option is 20,000 yuan per square meter, 30% below market price.

Those who have moved out of their houses and removed all their possessions from the property, having had their houses demolished, will receive their compensation within ten working days after the date announced by the district government, namely, 04-01-16. By 03-19, already over 100 families have moved out of their houses and into temporary residences. Those who move out and settle in the temporary housing before the cut off date will receive an extra award of 10,000 yuan per square meter (of their old house).


An official in the project headquarters said, beside the traditional method of disseminating public announcements by posting information on walls, they invested in the latest technology, and now have an electronic information system in place. It has the results of the survey of households, details on the plan, the rate at which contracts are being signed, and info on compensation paid out. The residents can look up all of these matters in real time, as they are constantly updated — this is a first.


the project website (in Chinese)

The headquarters has also set up a supervision department, a procuratorate department, an inspecting discipline department, and an auditing department, that is, an extensive staff with the sole duty of insuring there is no corruption or abuse of authority. The companies which provide services for the project have signed an agreement to be honest, clean, and self-disciplining. At various places in the affected area of the project100 clean-government report boxes (complaint boxes) have been set up. The project officials request that all residents carry out their own supervision of the process, and report any violations by workers or personnel of legal stipulations and project policies.


The project office has also set up a coordination committee made of representatives who have been elected from, and by the residents. This committee participates in every step of the project, and has set up four work stations: a resident reception center, a mediation center, a legal services center, and a notarization center — all there to serve the residents during the transition.

For those residents who have chosen to come back to replacement housing on the same site, there is a model of the new buildings to help the residents determine where in the complex they want to live, following the motto, “ For my new house, I am the one who decides.” For those residents who have chosen to live in the alternate designated housing (in Daxing, Fengtai, and Fanshan) there will be a large bus available to take them out to look at the residences.

For those residents who choose to receive monetary compensation only, as an example if their old house was 50 square meters, with all the various awards and bonuses, they are eligible to receive as much as 5 million yuan. ($740,000)

Guangyuanli 光源里
Baizifang 白纸坊
Caiyuan Street 菜园街
Zaolin nanlin 枣林南里
Hongjian Nanli 宏建南里
Jiaomen Xili 角门西里

konjaku: the Guangyuanli renovation was well under way by 03-2016. The following article is dated 2015-01-26, more than one year earlier, and captures some of the residents apprehensions, before the details about the project have become clear.

Guangyanli farewell– three generations living together, only separated by a few boards

Guangyuanli area is a bunch of one story houses in what seems like a patch of low-lying ground, surrounded by tall buildings. Almost every house has an addition built into it because the original house became too small for the occupants, and these expanded houses have caused narrow alleys to shrink further. Often the alley has boards that span its width, running across horizontally, at just under the height of a tall person. (photo)


It is not unusual there are to be two generations living in a house in which the bedroom, dining room, and living room are all one room. Many shantytown residents welcome the chance to move to better living conditions in a multi-story building, and they have high hopes for the renovation project. But their expectations are mixed with worry.

At one place there is a spare and economical two-story building, by the side of the road, with a low one-story house beside it. In front of the house is a small shack, thrown together with planks of wood. This is the Liu family’s storage space. There are many similar such shacks all around Guangyuanli. “The inside of the house is very small. It’s hard enough to accommodate all the people who live there, much less all of our stuff.” The Liu family house is altogether twenty square meters, and inside is piled high with things. Outside is bright daylight, but they need to have a lamp lit to illuminate the house. Their table is stood up against the wall to save space, and they only set it upright when they eat a meal.

Some ten years ago the older Mr Liu built the first addition to their house, an extra room. The reason was simple: his son had grown up, and parents and child could no longer sleep in the same room. Mr Liu’s neighbors did the same, changing what had been a small kitchen into a bedroom.

Fifty-two-year-old Mr Li is a long-time resident, “I have lived here since I was a few months old. Twenty years ago he added a small room of seven or eight square meters, and then another one that filled up his courtyard. Mr Li installed a shower and a toilet. Unlike the Liu house, his interior is not as dark, because he installed glass on the ceiling to reflect light. ”It’s much brighter in here, and [because he put in a toilet] I don’t have to go outside to go to the bathroom, but these improvements are still only a few.” Mr Li spoke with some pride of his additions, which he had designed himself.

Between the spare and economical building and the Liu family house, there is a garbage heap with all sorts of multi-colored refuse. One resident said, on rainy days rainwater flows out of the garbage heap, down the alley and into her house. Although she has cleaned after, and keeps her house neat and tidy, the walls and roof have many marks of repair, and she worries what will happen on the next rainy day. “It’s just not sanitary, I’m too close to that rubbage heap. I worry about all the things that might happen from the rainwater.”

There is no working drainage system. Whenever it rains, standing water accumulates. The residents often put sandbags in front of their houses, to stop the water from flooding in.

“Besides the water, the other big worry is fire.” One resident pointed out that if a fire broke out in these narrow alleys piled with things, or among these roughly built storage sheds, crowded up against each other, the fire trucks would have a difficult time getting in.

Following along Banbuqiao Street going south, there is a forest of construction cranes, busily at work, but beyond that activity ceases, and on both sides of the street are low-slung one-story houses, row after row. Some of these one-story buildings have become stores, some are small restaurants.

Wang Yude built a five meter square one- room shack in front of his house for his son to use as a bedroom.It is just big enough to hold a single bed and an electric heater. In Wang Yuse’s house the cold wind comes in through the cracks around the window frame. He has no heat, and the temperature inside is low. Wang Yude rubs his hands together and rocks back and forth to try and feel warm.

Mr Zhang does not like to recall life in the shantytown. At times five people were living in a house less than 25 square meters. Parents and children slept together. He and his wife had a room that was an add-on, with only a partition separating it from the rest of the house. “We were typical of shantytown residents –three generations under one roof, only a board separating our room from the rest of the house.”

Mr Zhang moved two years ago to an apartment in a very old two-story building, with his wife and child. “Since we now pay rent there is more economic pressure on us, but as my child grows up, we need to provide a room for him to study in.If we have to go and live with my parents again, it would be very inconvenient. Before we had a child, my wife and I would go for a stroll at night, or chat with the neighbors, waiting until my parents fell asleep before going back home.”

Mr Wang’s house is eighteen square meters. He added on, making it now twenty-four square meters. His son has a temporary job and lives in a dormitory. The son comes back home on weekends, but still goes back to the dormitory to sleep. There just isn’t enough room. Mr Wang looks forward to having a larger, brighter house–”Who would not want that? If we had a house like that, my son might be encouraged to find someone to marry.”

The Guangyuanli redevelopment project involves over 90,000 square meters, and 2500 households.

In the ninth month of last year, when the residential community staff member came to visit Mr Liu to check his household registration, measure the surface area of his house, and solicit his opinion on the project, Mr Liu did not hesitate: “I am in favor of it. Who would not want to move to a better house?

When asked, Mr Li raised both hands in approval saying, “I have lived here many years, but we all want to live in a multi-story building when the area is redeveloped.”

In the shantytown area there are several pit latrines, which asault people with acrid smells during the summer. When it rains raw sewage floats in the run-off. Mr Li, who is 69, said as he gets older these conditions become more difficult. “I have two wishes: one is not to have to go outside when I need to use the toilet, and the other is to have a place to take a bath inside my house. To live in a multi-story building, roomy and bright, with running water and heat, this is something an old person like me looks forward to.”

Ms Wang, 52, has lived here for 40 years. She added a kitchen and a bedroom to her small house. “There are some people who have moved away and rent out their houses, because the environmental conditions are getting worse. They get a little money for that.” She is looking forward to the redevelopment.

After the survey of his household, Mr Li has heard no further news. There has been little in the newspapers. “They have not sent anyone back to come and talk to us about the redevelopment standards.” He often stands at the entrance to his alley, talking with neighbors about the project. “We still don’t know how compensation rates will be determined, whether based on the number of people in the household, or on the surface area of our old homes.” Mr Li’s home is a bit better than most of his neighbors, as he has put in a shower, a toilet, and two bedrooms. “If it is based on surface area, our family will probably only get a one-room residence in the multi-story building [built on a site in the same neighborhood]. That won’t be an improvement for me, as I already have two bedrooms. Our new place won’t even have one bedroom.How can I call this an improvement?”

Mr Liu is wondering about the same thing. “If I only get a one room apartment based on surface area, that won’t be enough room for my family. If we all have to pay 10,000 to 20,000 yuan to purchase larger residences, most of the low-income people around here cannot possibly afford that much. If we get better homes but have no money left, we need to reconsider.”

If they take the option of moving out of the neighborhood they might get more living space, but Mr Liu is not giving up yet. “If we move to the suburbs we might get a bigger place, but there are many inconveniences about living there. Hospitals and traffic are two of the issues.”

Although the shantytown residents are full of hope about the redevelopment project, and even though they often despair about their current living conditions, they still feel reluctant to part with a place they have know for at least half a lifetime.

Residents moving back to Guangyuanli will get fully furnished rooms –all they’ll need is a suitcase of personal belongings, everything else will be there

After shantytown restoration, those residents who are returning to new housing built on site do not have to worry about rushing about figuring how to fix up their new residences. In the model room for the replacement project they can see exactly what the brand new walls, floorboards, and kitchen will look like.
Residents of Baizifang examine the model room


The one story houses that made up Baizifang and Guangyuanli have already disappeared without a trace. There is a flat patch of ground on which scattered brick and rubble remain,where soon a row of brand new buildings will tower overhead. Guangyuanli, in the Baizifang district of Xicheng, is undergoing one of the shantytown restoration projects in the area, involving 2137 households. The rate of those families who have signed contracts is at 97 percent.


Wang Xiaoqin, a resident of Guangyuanli whose house has been demolished, was one of the first to sign a contract. Auntie Wang signed early, and she moved out of her small two room house as soon as possible. She no longer needs to be troubled with the dirty and disorderly environment in which she previously lived. Auntie Wang told this reporter, as one of the earliest batch of residents to move out, she also received an inducement award and a subsidy, besides her compensation money for a new residence,. She is now renting two rooms in in the same neighborhood, and she is waiting for the shantytown renovation to be finished, so she can move into her new home.

photo: model of the redevelopment


Guangyuanli comprises 13.3 hectares, with over 1800 one-story buildings. Some are homes, some are buildings, but the area does not have many services. Most buldings were built in the 1950s. As shown in this photo, some buildings have already been demolished. There is one 18 story building which was built in the 1980s. The population is about 10,000. There are no schools, stores, or playgrounds, or other public facilities in the area.

In the model room, Auntie Wang can see exactly what her new home will be like. Seeing everything together in one set, she has no worries about having to fix up or change anything in her new place. She says since any home has to eventually be renovated after a number of years, so she will wait that long before changing things to better suit her taste. In fact, this reporter has learned that the new residences leave some leeway for the residents to decorate as they wish.

The Xicheng District Baizifang shantytown has been there for many years. The city has lagged in providing infrastructure, sanitation is poor, the space is cramped, the houses old. In Guangyuanli there is no plumbing, only ten or twenty pit latrines, which is especially inconvenient. For a long time the residents have been hoping for improvements to their living environment.

At present there is a ratio of one car per home. When the renovation is completed, each family will be guaranteed one parking space. 60 percent of the residents have chosen to come back to the same site, while the remaining 40% can choose between designated housing in either Jiugong town in Daxing, the Nanyuan Residential District in Fengtai, or Liangxiang in Fangshan.




4. Dazhalan Yangmei Zhuxie
In progress (2016). Because of a funding problem, only a section of residents have moved. The replacement housing for Yangmei Zhuxie is Zhangyicin in Fengtai, Huilongguan in Changping, and Tuanhe in Daxing.







Zhangyicin 张仪村
Huilongguan 回龙观
Tuanhe 团河

Dazhalan Yangmei Zhuxie 大栅栏杨梅竹斜街

Yangmei zhuxie street –protecting a 486 meter long historical and cultural district blending tradition and innovation

Reporter Li Bin, Zhang Manzi, Kong Xiangxin


konjaku: this an excerpt, not the whole article

This reporter is following the organic transformation undergone by Yangmei zhuxie street in the Qianmen neighborhood.

The thousand year old Yangmei zhuxie, although it is only 486 meters long, is comparable, in its historical and cultural significance, with the more famous examples of cultural preservation — Dashilanr (Dazhalan) Street and Liulichang. It too is becoming a distinctive pedestrian street.

Six years ago, a plan was formed to renovate Yangmei zhuxie, to preserve its historical elements and revive its culture. The key was to transform delicately without ruining the original character of the street.


Once many bookstores and presses lined up along this street. Those in the early modern period who were eagerly pursuing new forms of knowledge gathered here: Kang Youwei Tan Sitong, Liang Qichao, Lu Xun, Yang Xiaolou [see below]. Some lived here, others were frequent visitors.

The plan calls for those who leave, to leave voluntarily. Of 1711 households, 718 chose to move out. The remaining approximately 1000 residents have dispersed temporarily into household compounds. After moving out of their old households, the Beijing Dazhanlan company will implement the plan, using small-scale “micro-circulation” to bring about an organic development and transformation [as opposed to a big-development plan, tearing everything down and starting over].

Burying utility lines underground, restoring the guildhalls and the houses of famous people, laying brick and tile walkways, recovering the style of the past… this form of development, while transforming those areas that have become dangerous [excessive crowding or buildings near to collapse], preserves the original charm and tradition for the original inhabitants and the next generation.

Kang Youwei 康有为 leader of the failed Hundred Days’ Reform movement
Tan Sitong谭嗣同 politician, thinker and reformer, also a leader in the Hundred Days’ Reform movement
Liang Qichao 梁启超 pupil of Kang Youwei and prominent intellectual leader
Lu Xun 鲁迅 the preeminent Chinese novelist of the early 20th century
Yang Xiaolou 杨小楼 Peking opera actor and innovator


5. Shichahai project

This project is on the east side of the Shichachai historical and cultural zone. comprising 15.56 hectares, 296 buildings with courtyards,. Among these, there are 127 household compounds, and 170 businesses. This project involves 3567 residents in 1286 households.Total capital investment is 6.1 billion ($900 million) Construction will take four years, the principal task will be to renovate the sewage pipes and waste disposal system, and to redo the old buildings. They will utilize underground space to build a large scale parking lot,and regulate and bring up to standard the various businesses, making stores are selling high end, high quality works of art to the tourist trade.
In order to relieve congestion in the area, the Shichahai administrstion has started a pilot project, sending proposals to 4620 households asking them to move to housing outside Shichahai.. So far, the residents of 47 household compounds have agreed to move. When this pilot project expires at the end of this month (03-2017), the administration will study what further steps can be taken.
The mode of compensation is to choose one of two options, either replacement housing or a sum of cash to buy a new residence. If residents choose replacement housing, they will receive a unit of two rooms totalling 90 square meters.They will also receive an inducement award of 40,000 yuan per square meter, and a lump sum of 48,000 yuan. They will also receive a subsidy for setting up air-conditioning.
If they choose the cash option, they will receive the same inducement awards, and 5,8971 yuan per square meter.

konjaku: Various parts of Shichahai, an area around several lakes northwest of the Forbiddden City. a scenic and historical district also well-known for its nightlife, have been the subject of renovation plans and attempts in recent years. In 08-17 (when this is being written), two-story buildings doing business as open-air bars are being demolished. There is another pilot project to move and renovate historical buildings with courtyards, turning them into a “courtyard demonstration zone.”

Shichahai 什刹海

6. Baitasi (Miaoying temple) The White pagoda temple
In Baitasi Lane in Xicheng there are 13 non-conforming buildings that must be demolished according to the law. This is the one allowable project in the Baitasi cultural zone. Once these buildings are demolished, the resulting space will be turned into a parking lot, to alleviate the parking problem in the area.

Baitasi 白塔寺

7. 信达宣A-G地块 Zindaxuan A-G land parcels
The A-G land parcels in east Zindaxuan A public announcement has been made that bids are invited to transform structurally unsound buildings in the B parcel.

8. 棉花A6A7 A2A5地块 Mianhua the A6A7and the A2A5 parcels–taking bids to demolish certain dangerous buildings.

9. 桃园C地块 Taoyuan C Parcel: a bid has been accepted for a project to build an enclosing wall around a site where buildings were demolished, and to harden the ground inside

10. Xuanxibei, Xuanxi fengmao

Xixheng district has started the Xuanxibei shantytown transformation project. For Xuanxi fengmao various north parcels, compensation has been set at 61,998 yuan per square meter of existing building, and the designated replacement housing is Heshun jiayuan between the south 4th ring and 5th ring.
“We started surveying the residents 12-2014, and by 04-2015 we have gotten 90 percent approval for the project.” The official in charge told this reporter that they must guarantee voluntary cooperation of the residents, a transparent and fair process in which all the residents of a compound with courtyard agree to move. “If there are some compounds in which not all the residents agree to move, we will develop a specialized plan to renovate each of those compounds individually, according to the actual situation, including the surrounding roads and infrastructure.”



Xuanxibei 宣西北,
Xuanxibei fengmao 宣西风貌协调
Heshun jiayuan 合顺家园

photos of Heshun jiayuan:



11. 天桥演艺区北部平房区Tianqiao yanyi (performing arts) district
Improve the environment of the Northern Pingfang residential area in the Tianqiao yanyi (performing arts) district . This is in the inspection and planning stage.

12. 国家大剧院西侧项目 Western side next to the National Center for the Performing Arts housing and environment improvement project

Residents wil move out of dense neighborhoods of one story houses in a number of hutongs (alleys)such as Qianxiwachang, involving more than one thousand houses. Compensation will be a monetary payment to purchase a new residence, the amount of which will be coordinated through the government in terms of the price of possible housing available. The designated housing is in Kang’run Jiayuan (residential complex) in the Fengtai district, but spaces are limited, “the first to sign a contract, the first to select a new residence, the first to clear out of their old house, will have the best choices.”

photo: the National Center can be seen in the background


other views of the neighborhoodImg8069872_n.jpg


Residents’ reactions:
Some worry that if their neighbors sharing the same compound do not want to move, it will be hard for them to receive the inducement rewards
Many of the alleys around the National Center for the Performing Arts are over one hundred years old. Qianxiwachang alley dates from the Ming, it got its name from being at the entrance to a well-known tile factory. (Qian, in front of, xiwa, fine tile; chang, factory).In this alley there are a number of compounds with houses arranged around a shared courtyard. Many families squeeze in to share a single courtyard, as some residents have added annexes in any available space. The alley and the passageways in the compounds are very narrow, some only two meters wide. Seventy-year-old Mr Zhang said, “I do really want to move, but it is also hard to leave.” Mr Zhang calculated that his house is 20 square meters, which with the various types of compensation would give him altogether about 3 million yuan, which would allow him to easily buy two residences in the replacement housing complex.
Many old Beijingers living here don’t want to move. “I have lived here my whole life, and I don’t want to leave. Here it is easier to see a doctor, and easier for my granddaughter to go to school. However, the environment here definitely is inferior. I wish they would make improvements, keep things in good repair, and let us continue to live here.”
Those residents who have decided to leave have one worry: in a compound with shared courtyard, all those who live there must agree to move. But if one household doesn’t move out, maybe the others can’t leave either. They may not to be able to get their inducement awards.

Compensation: according to the project notification, this consists of a cash amount. If the residents make a request to acquire the designated replacement housing, the government will allocate money from the compensation amount to purchase the housing.
Amount consists of purchase price of resident’s current home, plus various awards and subsidies.
If a compensation amount is not enough to purchase the least expensive unit in the replacement housing, the amount necessary to complete the purchase will be provided, and will not displace any other awards or subsidies.
Qianxiwachang 前细瓦厂
Kang’run Jiayuan 康润家园


13.  project to protect and utilize the Dazhalan (Dashilar) Historical Culture Exhibition Hall. This project will requisition buildings, Numbers 2,4,6,8 on Yingtaoxie street, and pay compensation.

Dazhalan Historical Culture Exhibition Hall大栅栏历史文化展览馆
14. Project to protect and utilize the Wuxu Reform Memorial Hall (Hundred Days Reform 1898)
The compensation plan has been proposed and passed through the public vetting stage. Replacement housing will be Dongba Dandian second stage residential development in Chaoyang.

Wuxu Reform Memorial Hall 戊戌维新纪念馆

Dongba Dandian second stage 东坝单店二期

15.  The Beijing Kunqu opera theatre center.
220 houses, from Longzhaohuai alley to the east, South to Beijing number 15 middle school, west to Caisikou dajie (street) , north to Taoran Tinglu (road).

The Beijing Kunqu opera theatre center 北京昆剧艺术中心项目

Longzhaohuai alley 龙爪槐胡同
Caisikou dajie 菜市口大街
Taoran Tinglu (road)陶然亭路

16. Spare and economical buildings:
Xicheng Assistant Party Secretary said District Head Wang Shaofeng said that by 2020, all the spare and economical buildings in the district would be vacated and demolished. Because of questions of historical preservation and the red tape involved in levying land, this is taking a long time. The focus is old buildings in danger of falling down, buildings in cultural preservation areas, and buildings on plots of land near urban villages.As these are entered in the registration procedure gradually the backlog will be cleared. We must make the appeals of the people the priority, and build high quality and attractive replacement housing with an improved environment, widening and filling in the infrastructure and facilities to form a complete set of services for daily life.

17. Dashilanr zhuliang neighborhood improvement project

Dazhalan Zhuliang block will be renovated “in the old style”

Under the thirteenth five-year plan, the Dazhalan Zhuliang area will be renovated in a way that protects and preserves its historical form.

Qianshi (Money Market) Alley, and the former residence of Tan Xinpei [Beijing opera actor]will be vacated and turned into museums. Those residents who live in historical compounds sharing a courtyard will have their houses renovated.

Qianshi Alley is famous as Beijing’s narrowest street. Two people can barely pass each other as they walk through it. It is 55 meters long, but its average width is 70 centimeters, and in some places 40 centimeters. Nevertheless this was the financial center at the end of the Qing (1644-1911), Beijing’s earliest “finance street.” In the past, small private banks were lined up in great numbers here. Now, Qianshi Alley is filled with compounds occupied by many households, and among them there is no lack of illegal buildings.



The residents will all be moved out, the non-conforming buildings demolished, and the diseased buildings will be repaired. Buildings 1-10, which are historical relics, will be restored to their original appearance, at the same address, based on historical documents. In the future, private banks will reappear on Qianshi Alley. The other vacated buildings will be turned into a money and commerce museum.

The former residence of Tan Xinpei will be turned into a museum about historical drama.

front gate


from the outside


Tan Xinpei


The timetable to vacate the buildings is being drawn up. The project is slated to begin at the end of the first quarter of this year (2017).

To renovate compounds in the proper historical fashion, residents will have guidance.

In order to help Dazhalan residents restore their compounds, Xicheng district is providing a book of illustrations, which the residents can use as references.
A district official said, the main form of residences in Dazhalan was the quadrangle compound with a courtyard in the center (shiheyuan), but nowadays some compounds (dazayuan) no longer have this form. In response, Xicheng has put together the “Quadrangle compound plan and building committee,” inviting scholars and buildings specialists to contribute. These specialists wil survey existing compounds, and pick twenty as examples of how to properly restore buildings to the original quadrangle form, making illustrations of the process in a handbook. These handbooks wil be distributed to residents as samples of how to proceed with restoration.

Dazhalan Zhuliang 大栅栏珠粮街区
Qianshi (Money Market) Alley 钱市胡同
Tan Xinpei 谭鑫培
dazayuan multi-family compounds 大杂院
shiheyuan, shiheyuanr, qudrangle of residences with central courtyard 四合院

18. Also in Dazhalan Zhuliangjie, several projects:
Lang fang er tiao、Men kuang hutong, and Zhubaoshi street –buildings and building facades in this area will be renovated.

Langfang er tiao 廊房二条
Men kuang hutong 门框胡同
Zhubaoshijie 珠宝市街

photos of Langfang er tiao



the turquoise-colored square warns against carbon monoxide poisoning from unventilated coal heaters


19.  Fayuanshi (temple) pilot project
The focus is on fixing up two nearby hutong (alleys), preserving the historical and cultural features, while at the same time using creative ideas, building a suitable living environment to improve peoples’ lives.

Fayuanshi 法源寺

20. Debao number 7
Residents of the Debao number 7 shantytown will be relocated. Through a vote, they have agreed that the real estate price structure on new residences will be determined through a public drawing of lots, which will randomly make selections.
Debao number 7 德宝7号地

21. Tianning temple east side requisition project

The Tianning temple pagoda tower and the adjacent old industrial smokestack are a well known pair, the “two hots.” Both will remain in an industrial park called Tianning Number One Culture Science and Technology Park.





Tianningsi 天宁寺
two hots 二热