April 19th, 2007

So I got the business district class… Not that that means anything to you. Anyway, this school has been running classes for an oil company out in the development zone in Yizhuang for a while now. So far I’ve managed to avoid it. However, the only other foreign teacher currently here (I wish the other one would hurry the fuck up and come back) has a rather heavy workload and I’ve gotten off pretty lightly so far this semester, so when this class came up I was the only choice.

Anyway, I don’t want to blog about work. That’s boring.  But suddenly getting the Yizhuang class means I got to have a look at this development zone that’s been sitting out in Yizhuang for, well, years now. I always knew it was there. It’s been plainly marked on maps for ages. For a while I lived near Panjiayuan and had reason to be going down to Fangzhuang regularly, so I often went past the start of the Jingjintang Expressway with its signs pointing to this development zone. I always kind of wondered what would be out there. Not really wondered, just kind of.

So somebody had the bright idea of giving me this class in Yizhuang which runs from 6 to 9 pm and sending me in a car out there at 4:15 so I’d have time to get dinner (no fucking way am I working unfed) so I got a chance to see Yizhuang first hand. Wow. Exciting.

And what did I see? Wide, almost empty roads that looked and felt like they hadn’t been repaired since they were built several years ago. Traffic lights, most of which did not work. Fancy-looking new buildings. Empty fields. Not a hell of a lot, in other words. I don’t know how long Yizhuang has been designated a development zone, but it’s still very much under construction and there’s stacks of spare land out there, judging by what I saw yesterday. Actually, I would see there’s less “construction density” out there than in downtown Beijing and a large amount of spare land.

Apparently Yizhuang is one of the places designated as a new satellite town. Well, Tongzhou was well on its way to being a new satellite town long before the city government dreamed up this idea. I did see some residential areas in Yizhuang yesterday, but most of what I saw out there was commercial and industrial. Not the kind of place I’d like to live, and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of an actual town being built there. Restaurants? Shopping malls? Entertainment? All seemed desperately lacking.

Still, this is based on one trip on one afternoon focussed very much on getting me into one particular conference room for a three-hour lesson, then getting me home again. Not a good way to form a useful or valid impression of a place.

What was more interesting was the trip round the Fourth Ring Road. Well, no, most of that was pretty boring, but still, once we’d passed Sihui Qiao, the traffic lightened up, we sped up, and I got a look at places I used to know. I haven’t been down that part of town for ages. Of course, the southern stretch of Xidawang Lu and the areas either side Fourth Ring Road from Sihui south have been in various stages of destruction, construction and development for years now. I remember when the Yansha Outlets opened, for example, there wasn’t a hell of a lot else on that side of BeiGongDa. Now there’s a hell of a lot more malls and apartment complexes and what have you- all places I knew from some previous phase of development, but now a lot of those places are complete and open and fully functioning. And yet there’s still plenty of land and old shacks and shanties just waiting for the 拆….

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