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Balizhuang Village, Haidian, Beijing, August 2010, Canon 7D

 

Modern Beijing is a metropolis both consuming itself from within, and gorging on new land. As demolition and gentrification steadily advance into Beijing's old hutong core, turning formerly run-down historic neighbourhoods into tourist traps and/or wi-fi hangouts for the city's bohemian youth, the city is also mushrooming rapidly outwards into the countryside, laying claim to another batch of villages with each successive ring-road built. In an economy with 10% annual growth, and an ever-shifting migrant population of some 7 million (out of 19 million total), it doesn't take long the trickle of of low-end capitalism to follow where the infrastructure leads, turning the villages within the space of a few years from neat rural socialist idylls into squalid, crowded, crime-ridden slums. Eventually the subway line arrives, bringing with it high-end capitalism, and the slums get knocked down to be replaced with high-rise gated communities, business hotels and technology parks. The squalor, crowds and crime move somewhere else. Some residents will part company with the outskirts; some of the "floating" migrant population might head back to the countryside, some others will become rooted on first rung of Beijing society proper, but many more will have little choice but to find another niche elsewhere on Beijing's margins, another gap between the waves in the rising tide of China's development. The extent to which the city governments seek to include these people in the city proper may influence the fabric of the city for generations to come.

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Taken on August 19, 2010