Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing

Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing
By Ellen Schliebitz ,

Like a race car driver, Beijing is speeding forward in top gear. As we’re inevitably dragged along for the ride, many things flash by so quickly that we don’t even notice them, nor do we have time to turn our head and look back. Below, we’ve compiled a list of news, happenings, rumours and changes that have taken place in Beijing in recent times.

Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing

1) iPhone mania grips the capital

It’s already become blatantly obvious that the iPhone will go down in history as one of the most coveted, era defining high-tech gadgets in the world. In Beijing, the demand for the latest iPhone 4 was so huge, that people camped overnight at Apple’s flagship store in Sanlitun and at the new store in Xidan. Others waited in line for hours and hours, resulting in some minor brawls and scuffles, requiring police officers and dogs to maintain peace and order.

Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing

2) Beijing steps up measures for easing traffic congestion

Beijing’s snail-pace traffic has morphed from an irritating headache to a full-blown migraine. With the roads choc-a-block seven days a week, and thousands of new cars joining the crippling automobile orgy every day, Beijing’s suits finally acknowledged the need for tighter restrictions and better planning. In December, Beijing announced measures to cut down new car registrations by two thirds next year. Beijing will also limit car usage based on odd and even last license plate numbers and further restrictions will be introduced during key festivals and bad weather. But is that enough?

Beijing is also working hard to expand its subway system. Five new lines opened in Beijing in late December, adding a combined 108 kilometres to the city’s existing nine lines. Moreover, last August news broke of a bizarre new invention called a “3D express coach.” The futuristic looking vehicle, allows cars to drive underneath it while it stops to pick up passengers. At least someone’s thinking outside the box.

3) Wireless, wireless everywhere!

Every inch of Beijing within the fifth ring road and the central regions of Beijing’s suburbs will have access to the internet by 2011. While that’s great news on the surface, one can’t help but wonder about the health risks. Unlike mobile phones and masts, no study has ever been carried out on the health effects of Wi-Fi, yet everyone knows that radiation is an unavoidable by-product of the convenient service.

Ironically, an ad was broadcast on the screens of subway line 10 recently, advertising “anti-radiation clothing” (防辐射服). Should we be getting worried? 

Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing

4) Massive wine center opens in Beijing

Long gone are the days when Great Wall and Changyu were pretty much the only wine brands around, stacked somewhere between plastic bags of baijiu and 2 kuai beers. This January, wine distributor ASC, opened the doors of its new ambitious project The Wine Gallery, in Sanlitun’s Village North. Focusing on wine education rather than retail, this three story building has two private dining rooms, several tasting areas, a terrace and an educational section. Wine can of course also be purchased here, but with most bottles selling at 200 RMB or more, this new premises is definitely geared towards the more serious wine connoisseur.

5) Beijing to build another airport this year

With the seven billionth baby expected to be born in the world this year, it’s no wonder that Beijing felt the need to start planning another airport to support its existing colossal air hub in the northeastern suburbs. According to Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong, the new airport will be located in Daxing District and construction will begin this year. The first phase of the airport will be completed in five years, handling an additional 40 million passengers a year.

Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing
Spring Festival Travel Rush

6) 285 Million people put China’s transport system to the test

China’s most congested travel period has begun – the Spring Festival migration/rush (春运). Train stations across the country are working on full capacity to accommodate the billions of people returning home for China’s biggest annual festival. Major train stations have introduced extra measures this year to accommodate the world’s largest annual migration. Ticket booths in Beijing Railway Station and Beijing South Station are now open 24 hours a day and some 600 additional trains are being put into service during the peak travel period.

See photos of the travel rush here.

7) Pensions for foreigners in Beijing, really?

This year was a challenging year for many trying to obtain long term visas, so the recent announcement that Beijing plans to include foreigners in future pension systems, came as a little surprise. Skepticism aside, it seems like Beijing is really trying hard to improve pension insurance policies for all working residents in the city, and publicly addressing that there is a problem is already the first baby step in improving people’s lives. Read more here.

Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing

8) A new “798” to potentially replace major steel plant

In another unexpected twist, rather than announcing plans to demolish Caochangdi or any other creative hub, the opposite has happened. On January 13, Shougang (首钢), a leading Chinese steel plant in Beijing, announced that it will halt all steel production at its Beijing plant in order to cut down on air pollution in the capital. Located in the Shijingshan area in west Beijing, the area was long considered inhabitable because of high pollution. 

However, in a meeting shortly after Shougang’s closure, Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Industry, Liu Qi, presented a plan to convert the former factory grounds into a creative zone similar to the hugely successful 798 Art Zone in Chaoyang District. According to the report, Beijing not only needs new high rises, but areas where culture and creativity can flourish.

Beijing Watchdog: A Round-up of Things Happening in Beijing

9) Beijing’s parks spring to life this winter

This winter, Beijing’s numerous parks have been given a whole new lease of life. So called “Ice & Snow Festivals” are taking place across the city, bringing a host of fun winter activities and events with them. From ice-skating to ice sculpture exhibits, and ice bumper cars to sledding, winter enthusiasts of all ages will find something fun to keep them entertained and active. See more here.

10)  It’s Temple Fair time again!

That’s right; Temple Fairs are back in the capital! This year, Beijing’s most revered performance center – the National Center of Performing Arts – will host its first ever Temple Fair. Running from Feb 3-9, the fair includes live musical performances, shadow play performances, Peking Opera and more. The venue has invited young students and migrant workers staying in Beijing for the New Near, to join in the celebrations. Young, aspiring pianists under the age of 18, will also be given the chance to recite on stage.

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