We Talk to the Beijingers Impacted by Citywide Renovations

By Noelle Mateer, June 5, 2017

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We are in the midst of a huge, citywide gentrification drive (or as it’s known to many, the Great Bricking of 2017), and we considered it our duty to explore the public renovations in more depth. Not only is this a local issue that many of us feel passionately about – it's also one that is profoundly important to the future of our city. Like so many things in Beijing, the matter is more complex than it first seems. In addition to our series of interviews with everyday Beijingers (below) you can read our full report by clicking here

READ MORE: The Citywide Renovations Changing Beijing As We Know It


To get a better idea of how the renovations are impacting everyday Beijingers, we conduct a series of interviews with those most affected.  

Construction Worker 

We meet Li Ming as he’s taking a smoke break near the construction site he works on. He and his team are renovating several hutong homes. 

This is how it’s going to be [he points toward the house he’s working on]; we’ve torn down a big part of the wall, so now we’re just going to paint the remaining walls. They’re going to do this in every hutong in Beijing. We’re doing the same thing everywhere. 

I’m just a worker; I don’t have an opinion on all the renovations. I just do whatever work pays me. I don’t even live in the city; I live in Hebei. But I can’t complain! If there were no renovations, I wouldn’t have all these major projects to work on. As long as we have work, we have money to feed our families. 


Hutong Resident

We meet a woman who’s been living in her (now partially destroyed) hutong house since the 50s. 

We built this second floor ourselves, and now the local government is tearing it down. My son and grandson are still living up there, so they’re going to move out first, and then the city will tear it down. We talked to the authorities and were able to arrange it so that we wouldn’t have to move out until we found a new place. 

It’s Beijing’s policy – Beijing wants to turn the hutongs back to what they were originally like. My [second floor] is breaking the law, so there’s nothing I can say. I have kids and grandkids, so we built the second floor because we needed more room. 

The ground level is still OK, so I’ll stay there – my son and grandson will find somewhere else. I've lived here since 1956, ever since I was a kid. I’m 72 now. 

Over the years, people from outside Beijing have come to the hutongs to set up businesses, making holes in the walls for doors. So now the local government is restoring those buildings. This area [waves her hand around her] is all migrants. Since the migrants came, it’s become a lot messier. A lot of shops have opened up. So I’m pretty happy now that the streets are getting wider and things are getting cleaner. I think the policy is about making migrants leave, and giving the hutongs back to the laobeijings.

My grandfather was the mayor of Tianjin. My family is pretty involved in the Party, so I’m not in a position to comment. I’ve lived through the Cultural Revolution. I’ve been through s