From Le Monde Diplomatique: China has moved into fourth position in the league table of world economies, but only a third of its population has access to the new temple of consumerism. The rural poor, internal imigrants and laid-off workers suffer worst from the gross new inequalities.
Somewhere between the third and fourth ringroad in northeast Beijing is one of the city’s most happening spots. Unit 798 is a handsome cluster of red-brick buildings in the Bauhaus style, occupied by avant-garde galleries, trendy restaurants and chic boutiques.
Before it was fashionable, Unit 798 housed a danwei – a large state company employing some 20,000 workers to manufacture arms. Its premises, designed in 1957 in the name of socialist solidarity by East German specialists, were nearly a kilometre long. In those days every big company had its own housing, schools, clinics, even its own theatre. In those days the Dashanzi complex, to which Unit 798 is attached, saw itself as a model. Those days ended less than 15 years ago. Since then economic reform has swept away the factories, the workers and their families.