Beijing is without question one of the most famous cities in the world. The Chinese capital is a true living contradiction that bewitches anyone who enters its gates.
Once the center of the Celestial Empire, Beijing still fascinates visitors with its historical remains. The Forbidden City or the Temple of Heaven are just some of the destinations visited every year by millions of foreign and non-foreign tourists.
In the 21st century, tradition and innovation are becoming one in the Chinese capital. A stroll through Tiananmen Square takes one back to the gargantuan crowds that once called Mao’s name. Walking among traditional hutongs and futuristic architecture in the same day, a traveler can see the mix of old and new that has become synonymous with China.
The city’s troubled history includes Maoism and the Cultural Revolution. But Beijing also formed the backdrop of the country’s economic rebirth through Deng Xiaoping’s reforms that pushed the People’s Republic forward.
Where industry and tech collide
While many western cities struggle to find their footing after industrialism, Beijing has successfully undergone at least two rebirths. In the 50s and 60s, the Chinese government financed a massive development of heavy industry in Beijing including iron and steel factories. In 2008, the city transformed again to portray the high-tech future of modern China. In 2019, the city will open its second international airport that’s expected to further increase international transit in and out of the Dragon’s walls.
Today Beijing is tied with Shanghai in industrialization with highly developed mechanical, textile, and petrochemical sectors. Agriculture also plays a significant role in the economy, with significant production occurring in the city’s outskirts.
The flagship of the capital is the service sector. China’s state banks are divided by industry, and the Industrial Bank, Construction Bank, and Agricultural Banks which serve as the main credit unions are headquartered in Beijing. As home to the country’s main government ministries, Beijing is the control center of modern China.
An economic hub of the PRC
Walking to the Haidan district in the Northern suburbs of Beijing, one encounters the “Silicon Valley” of the North. Skyscrapers are home to major tech companies including Stone Group, Lenovo, and Baidu.
Many international companies want to build their representative offices and research centers in Beijing, including Oracle and Sony. Microsoft has constructed a new US$280 million research lab with over 5,000 employees. Google inaugurated its own research lab with support from the government.
The GDP of Beijing in 2016 reached 2.49 trillion yuan (US$ 362.3 billion) – an increase of 6.7 percent compared to 2015, according to Pang Jiangqian, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Government Office.
The new economic sector contributed 32.7 percent of the entire economy with an annual increase of 10.1 percent. “High-tech areas, like Zhongguancun, are becoming the engine of the economy,” Pang said.
Beijing isn’t just hi-tech – it’s still an important market for goods. As far as consumption is concerned, Beijing occupies a leading position. There are many luxury brands here, however, as many analysts note, the market in the city is starting to saturate.
A first-tier city looks to expand
Beijing is one of the first-tier cities of the People’s Republic. It’s in many ways a battleship of 20 million inhabitants ready to spend and thirsty for foreign brands. As a result, main actors are now examining less urbanized areas to maintain their growth.
Beijing, thanks to its strategic infrastructure network, is connected both by train and by air to the main secondary centers of the country. It makes a sensical logistics starting point.
Despite a consistently high rate of pollution, it is undeniable that the government has taken the problem to heart. The entire municipality is carrying out a gradual transformation and modernization of heating systems. Not only that, it is investing huge sums of money in renewables.
The China International Environmental Protection Exhibition and Conference (CIEPEC) is also taking place in Beijing, one of the most important trade fairs in China for the key sectors of environmental protection technologies.
If we look back to China in the early 80s – a country that had been torn apart by the Cultural Revolution, it seemed unthinkable that it could rise again. But rapid development and technological progress, as well as a renewed openness of the country, have brought Beijing back to the past decades.
Moreover, from this year the capital is the first city in China to have put in place ten-year working visas. Beijing is preparing to welcome the ‘brain drain’ of other cities. Now, rather than closing its doors, the Dragon is inviting collaboration on all fronts. A measure started forty years ago in Beijing thanks to the reforms of Deng Xiaoping.