The municipal government has decided to completely integrate into the urban landscape all of Beijing’s so-called villages – communities of compact, low-rise brick homes on fringes and in backward corners of the city. Tens of thousands of people live in hundreds of villages which, despite the quaint name, are more or less slums, and have been slated for demolition.
The first 50 village teardowns are scheduled to begin this year. When all is said and done, Beijing’s modernized urban area is expected to increase by more than half.
Over time, it’s estimated the project will affect about 620,000 permanent, Beijing residents and some 2.8 million migrants from other provinces who rent village homes from local landlords, most of whom live elsewhere in modern apartments.
City officials plan to encourage displaced villagers to move into newly built apartments. For the government, the expansion will not come easily. Officials are painfully aware that land takeovers and forced demolitions of village dwellings in the past have stirred unrest. Land transfer opponents around the country have petitioned, protested and even staged self-immolations, casting a shadow over the nation’s urbanization efforts. Despite officials’ good intentions, villagers often see their interests at odds with the government’s.