All across China, the fall harvest has ended. But unlike the activity in the country’s vast agricultural regions, where the harvest shapes daily life, the tumult of daily life here in Beijing is reshaping what remains of the harvest. Beijing, after all, is a city of 15 million to 17 million people, depending on who is counting.
Out on the edges of the city, where farmland is fast being converted into suburbs, farmers herding flocks of dirty sheep compete for space on dusty roads with clattering blue trucks carrying construction materials for the latest gaudy subdivision or high-rise building downtown. Other farmers ride carts behind puttering tractors or even mules as sleek black Audis with tinted windows glide by.
There is a constant collision between the two Chinas – one urban and racing into the 21st century, the other rural and seemingly locked in the 18th. Urban is prevailing, as recent government statistics show that at least 40 million farmers have lost their land to the demands of modernization and development.