From Asia Times:
As Beijing gears up to host the Summer Olympic Games next year, it is anxious to project itself as a modern world-class capital. However, wrong-footed conceptions of modernity combined with a weak legal system and corrupt collusion between real-estate developers and local officials has resulted in the wanton demolition of large swaths of the historical city. In the process, not only have up to half of the physical neighborhoods that once comprised the capital’s center been destroyed, but so has much of the city’s social fabric.
The primary object of Beijing’s demolition spree has been the hutongs, the narrow tree-lined alleyways that used to make up the entire 62-square-kilometer area surrounding the Forbidden City. Hutongs have been both the arteries and the lifeblood of Beijing since Mongol times, in the 13th century. They represent a long-lasting organic connection between the present and multi-layered past of China’s capital city. [Full text]