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The Pressures of Global China

By Sarah Grimaldi

    On my arrival in Beijing China, I realized that the Chinese are a highly innovative and complex society as I looked at the countless sky scrapers that seemed to dominate the land around us. As we drove to our hotel from the airport in Beijing, I observed the reality of China as a rapidly modernizing and global power. The majority of advertisements and construction in the downtown area were devoted to the 2008 Summer Olympics. I witnessed billboards for infrastructure advocating for the new townhouse phenomenon in Beijing that the Transplanting Cityscapes article by Fulong Wu spoke of. These “transplanted cityscapes” on the billboards seemed Americanized with a green lawns, two stories, driveways, and garages. If I wasn’t in China I would have thought I was looking at another housing development in California. The demand for these transnational housing developments is triggered by economic globalization. 

            Just as I witnessed the demand for this new and elegant lifestyle for the rich, I also saw the new urban poor that go along with a global city. Right around the corner from our modern looking hotel was a very vernacular style neighborhood of hut-like stores and houses called hutongs. People here appeared to be taking part in their everyday cultural lifestyles of eating noodles on the street and buying and selling goods to neighbors. This simple life seemed to suffer pressure from the skyscraper neighborhoods and the construction sites for the Summer Olympics just around the corner. It will be interesting to see if these older and poorer vernacular neighborhoods can withstand the pressures that a global city creates.

            Despite having cut itself off from the West for such a long period of time, I was struck by the vast infrastructure of Western stores and restaurants throughout the city. The endless amounts of direct foreign investment and its new participation in globalization may coax the Chinese to adapt to more western cultural ideas. An even more interesting thought is if a globalized China will oblige the West to Chinese ideas. Nevertheless, this ancient culture may endure many changes as the transnational begins to dominate the vernacular while China grows into a global power.

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