Chaos on the Streets of BeiXinQiao

Monday 9:10am

Coming outside for the first time in the day is a great part of living the nomad life. You’ve just woken up and lo and behold you are in this chaotic, characterful and compulsive fast-paced place.

This Monday morning was a bit more chaotic and fast-paced than most.

Today the routine route to work by bicycle was anything but. Cycling out on to BeiXinQiao San Tiao- the truly non commercialised, local Hutong I reside upon, most famous for its lamb legs, had some noisy, disruptive visitors.

img_4405An assembly of workers were all flanking the street, spades in hand, ready for action. What action I was by no means sure. Big diggers were trundling up towards me. It may have just been a routine project had it not been for the large amount of security personnel. Some armed with riot shields and batons. Trouble was expected.

My bike weaved between the masses of people all congregating at 9am on a Monday. Behind my smog mask I was aghast with the mess and noise the diggers were causing, as they tore into a used to be salon at the bottom end of the street. Gathered crowds watched on.

Coming from a home back in England, which has been painstakingly worked on for the last 4 years. I found the whole operation initially quite refreshing albeit mental. This was a clear indication of things getting done with a quite a large force.

I had read something about second rate service based businesses in Beijing being moved out to provincial cities to make room for new-age technological industry. Perhaps it was that. It is also well known that the Hutongs have experienced a lot of redevelopment in the past so many years to make way for more space or for tourists. Perhaps people like me are to blame.

It was at work that I found out that the Government does do routine destruction jobs on properties which have been built on Government land. The property prices are so high in Beijing it is not surprising though. Luckily my house sits on the 5th floor of a building off the street, surely they can’t tear this down I thought!

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 Monday 6:30pm Update: Post work the hutong has changed pretty dramatically there was shards of grass on the floor, there was piles of rubble outside buildings. Workers smoking, smiling post work happy with their days demolition. A lot of the places were bricked up. I am not sure if this is paid-for-workmanship by some atrocious bricky or they are closing off a shop.

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Tuesday 22:20pm Update

I had initially thought that the work was being done on just a collection of businesses. As I returned tonight it appeared that most if not all buildings have been severely affected. Any businesses that stray out into the road have been dramatically cut back. Grotesque brick jobs that would make my lime loving, cement hating Mother shake in her boots have been replaced.

I am actually quite furious. It’s quite extraordinary how ugly this job is. I am sure it has happened before but to see it done so quickly and emphatically is just mind-blowing.

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I regularly go to the fruit and veg stores, seen above, and other convenience stores, and it broke my heart to see the owner shrug his shoulders and laugh at my shocked expression. ‘Xi JinPing’ he said.

The Party Secretary sneezes and the country shudders.

 

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Women’s Role in China

(While interviewing a University girl:) When men have been drinking they come out with a set of definitions for women. Lovers are “swordfish”, tasty but with sharp bones. “Personal secretaries” are “carp”, the longer you stew them, the more flavour they have. Other men’s wives are “Japanese puffer fish”, trying a mouthful could be the end of you, but risking death is a source of pride. And for their own wives, they are salt cod, because it keeps for a long time and when there in no other food, salt cod is cheap and convenient’

Xinran: The Good Women of China

As adjudged by the above text from Xinran’s revealing and far-reaching book, Chinese women’s social status was very low in the past in China. Women would have no legal rights,  no choice on education or career pathway and little of a societal role.

This is an issue that fluctuated in the 20th century, pre1949, women were either wives or concubines. This led to the horrific, I mean horrific practice of  food binding, that was deemed as beautiful as women appeared as an almost mythical lotus-like creature that would  walk with her dainty footsteps across the Chinese courtyards.

Modernisation came late to China and the role of the women has significantly changed. Mao to his credit emphatically said that women held up half the sky and removed the food binding and other prostitution practices. The opening of the market in the 1980’s and the one child policy reversed this trend as women found themselves a desirable sex.  Women head leading-companies, lead delegations and have much more of a voice across the whole of society.

For me, the women rights movement is more visible in Beijing than in any other city I’ve lived in, probably because there is still such a need for it. Its hard to judge on how this has changed policy at government or corporate or high level, but there is a spreading awareness for women’s issues.

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Below are five initiatives I’ve come across since being here:

Beijing Women’s Network

Starting in 2015, this group has grown from an initial 12 sitting around a table to encompass a group of 1200. The Founders Kristen Carusos, Samantha Kwok and Jessie Wang, have engaged this audience by providing fortnightly Spotlight Dinners and monthly business and personal development events. (The latter is open to all members of the public). As a regular visitor to their  sessions I

Women’s Watch

One of the first companies I came across in the hunt to find new Host Companies was Women’s Watch. Li Xia is a retired lawyer who has set up an NGO practice to defend the rights of women in rural areas. Societies outside of the city still persist with age-old traditional views of women that cause them to be mistreated.

Women Entrepreneurs

Set up by Wen Li. Who for want of a better word is pretty direct and has good ideals. She openly criticised the BWN for not achieving alot. She aims with this entrepreneurial platform to incubate young talents. The proof is in the pudding, but with her apparent Government connections and her convinced nature I’m sure something will come of

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Interviewing Wen Li in December

Starfish Project

Great institution that helps women on the streets to achieve a more meaningful life. The charity openly offers women positions at their office in Wangjing to be educated and to make jewellery that gets sold in the U.S.

Crossroads Centre

Host an annual Beijing Womens Film Festival that gets international coverage and attracts film producers to come to Beijing to show their work. On a day-to-day basis they raise human equality issues to consulates as well as hosting weekly events.

 

For a country to be fully modernised and developed it has to readily accept all different societal groups. Women’s involvement is readily coercive, interdependent with others and in my mind they are the most effective/practical people of getting things done properlhy and efficiently.