Changing China

Giant on the move

Jingshun Highway revisited

April 22, 2008

Competitors at the Canoe/Kayak Slalom Open paddle on the practice lake at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park in BeijingUntil a few months ago, a few weeks in some cases, the Jingshun Highway, once one of the main arteries out of Beijing heading for skiing in the mountains and the Great Wall, was lined with scrappy auto-repair workshops, metal yards, tyre stores, manual car-wash services and other businesses.      

I am talking about the stretch of highway northeast of the huge conurbation of Wanjing, beginning where the airport expressway veers off to the right and surrounded by the suburbs of grandiose villa compounds with names like Beijing Riviera and Grand Hills, temporary homes to CEOs and other rich expats.      

They weren’t the prettiest of shops in Beijing, but they bustled. Roads and pavements were packed as red-cheeked children ran to and from their village homes and mums and dads ate squatting on the flagstones outside their stores.

In short, this was a sprawling, busy trading community supporting hundreds of
families, if not more.

Now, suddenly, many have been wiped from the face of the Earth.

Where once there were workshops, there are now thin lawns, bushes and spring flowers. On one stretch, a long, pretty, one-storey building, in the style of old China, houses several businesses, presumably uprooted from their uglier previous incarnations. Athletes from the Beijing team practise at Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on the outskirts of Beijing

But the rest have been erased. Where did they go?      

And why all the effort to make this road, no longer a major artery with huge, fast, state-of-the-art highways being built all around, pretty?      

A long-term resident suggested an answer. The road is not as important as it once was, but it is the road athletes and spectators will take to the Olympic rowing and canoeing.

They won’t want to see slums.  

Pictures of the rowing/canoeing venue at the end of the road by David Gray (top) and Alfred Cheng Jin.


Your article sounded like something bad happened there. I wonder what or anything good can be brought about by China hosting Olympics. It made me think that it might be true that western reporters were looking at China through tinted glasses.

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