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“Beijing Has 20 Million People Pretending to Live Here” (Full Translation)

Translation of “Beijing Has 20 Million People Who Pretend to Live There” (“北京,有2000万人假装在生活”) by Zhang Wumao.

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On July 23, Chinese blogger Zhang Wumao (real name Zhang Guochen) posted a humorous yet sharp essay criticizing the status quo of life in Beijing, and the city’s old locals and new immigrants. The article soon went viral and was denounced by official media. Translation provided by What’s on Weibo.

“Beijing Has 20 Million People Who Pretend to Live Here” or “Beijing Has 20 Million People Pretending to Have a Life Here” by Zhang Wumao. Chinese title “北京,有2000万人假装在生活”, original text in Chinese posted by author on WeChat on July 23, 2017.

1

Beijing has no human warmth

Friends from outside the city frequently criticize the people of Bejing. They’ll say that Beijingers have lots of money, but that they show it off in a classless fashion and that they are not hospitable. ‘I’ve come to visit the city, why can’t we catch up!?’, ‘We’ve known each other for years, you can’t even take me to the airport!?’ In fact, Beijingers are not as hospitable as non-Beijingers. Coming to pick you up and giving you a ride, or showing you around the city, are all seemingly simple things that are too hard for Beijingers to do.

Beijing people are busy. They are busy ’til 11 o’clock at night, when they are still jammed on the 3rd Ring Road. The cost of social time in Beijing is really too high – so high that it would be quicker to go for dinner in Tianjin than to go from Shijinghsan (TN: inner district of West Beijing) to Tongzhou (TN: district east of Beijing). Beijing is really too big; so big that it is simply not like a city at all.

So how big is Beijing really? It is equivalent to 2.5 times Shanghai, 8.4 times Shenzhen, 15 times Hong Kong, 21 times New York, or 27 times Seoul.

 

“Beijing is a tumor, and no one can control how fast it is growing; Beijing is a river, and no one can draw its borders.”

 

In 2006, when I came to Beijing, the subway only had line 1, 2, and 13. Now I don’t even know how many lines the Beijing subway has without checking it on Baidu. Ten years ago I took public transportation to search for a job, and refused to go to any interviews of companies outside the 4th Ring Road. Now companies like JD.com, Tencent, and Baidu, are all outside the 5th Ring.

When friends from outside the city come to Beijing, they think that we are near. But actually, we’re hardly in the same city; they might be in China’s Houhai, Guomao, Tongzhou, Shijingshan,.. If you’d look at the time spent in traveling, when people from Tongzhou and Shijingshan are dating, they are basically in a long-distance relationship. When you go from the 5th Ring Road to Yizhuang you could call it an offical trip.

For 10 years, Beijing has always been controlling housing, controlling traffic, and controlling the population. But this pancake is only getting wider and bigger. It has become so big that when a school friend from Xi’an called me to tell me he’s in Beijing, I asked him ‘where in Beijing?’, he told me ‘I’m at the 13th Ring Road.’

Beijing is a tumor, and no one can control how fast it is growing; Beijing is a river, and no one can draw its borders. Beijing is a believer, and only Xiong’an can bring salvation.

Beijingers are not just cool towards people from outside, they also treat each other coolly. Every time an old school friend from outside the city visits Beijing and we have a get-together, they’ll ask: ‘You guys here probably often meet up, right?’. I then say that those few times they come to Beijing, are the only few times we actually meet up.

In Beijing, there’s a mutual understanding when exchanging name cards; if we call each other a couple of times within a year, we’ll consider it a good friendship. If people are willing to come from east of the city to the west to have a meal together, then we’ll be friends for life. The only people we meet every day and have meals with are our co-workers.

2

Beijing actually belongs to outsiders

If you let Chinese people pick one city to visit in their lives, I am convinced the majority will choose Beijing. Because this is the capital, this is where you have Tian’anmen, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and hundreds of big and small theaters. From modern drama to Western or traditional opera, from xiangsheng to skits or Two-people Rotation – people from anywhere in the world can find their spiritual food here. But these things actually have nothing to do with the people of Beijing.

If you step into any major theater in Beijing, you’ll find that six out of ten people are outsiders with an accent and that three of them have just arrived in the city, that there are no fresh artistic young persons. What’s left is one person swiping their phone in the corner; the bored Beijing tour escort.

 

“Going into the Forbidden City, I only see one empty building after the other; it’s less interesting than the lively pigsties we have in my native village.”

 

In the 11 years since I’ve come to Beijing, I have been to the Great Wall 11 times, 12 times the Imperial Palace, 9 times to the Summer Palace, and 20 times to the Bird’s Nest. I feel emotionless about this city’s great architecture and long history. Going up the Great Wall, I can only think of Lady Meng Jiang (TN: 孟姜女, heroine of the Qin Dynasty), it is difficult to feel a sense of national pride again for this world miracle. Going into the Forbidden City, I only see one empty building after the other; it’s less interesting than the lively pigsties we have in my native village.

Upon hearing any mention of Beijing, many people immediately think of the Palace Museum, Houhai, 798; they think of history, culture, and high-rise buildings. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It’s good! Does it make you proud? It does! But you can’t make food out of these things. What Beijingers increasingly feel is the suffocation of the smog and the high cost of housing. They cannot move, they cannot breathe.

3

Beijing Eventually is Beijinger’s Beijing

If you say that Beijing still has this somewhat smoky smell, then this is the smell that comes from the city’s native Beijingers who have been here for generations. It comes from their old bird cages, it comes from their palm leaf fans that cool the air after dinner, it comes from the haughty accents of the taxi drivers…

Old Beijingers are trying to make this city smell alive; they are trying to make the city appear like a place where people live.

 

“If you do not have a five-room house, how can you be calm? How can you breathe? How can you relax and play chess while drinking tea, like the Beijing uncles?”

 

This lively odor of the old Beijing people is passed down in genes, and it rises from the bottom of their five-room apartments. When the white-collar workers from the financial district in west Beijing are immersed in the excitement over their year-end bonuses, the nouveau riche in the south will calmly say they own five-room houses. When the computer programmers in Haidian crack a code and fantasize about being the next Richard Liu, the nouveau riche in the south will still calmly say they own five-room houses. When the media elite in Chaoyang have drawn up a new list and stand before their CBD office window contemplating their life, the nouveau riche in the south, as before, will still calmly say they own five-room houses.

If you do not have a five-room house, how can you be calm? How can you breathe? How can you relax and play chess while drinking tea, like the Beijing uncles?

In Beijing, the migrants who have no real estate from previous generations are destined to be trapped in their house for life. They strive for over a decade to buy an apartment the size of a bird cage; then they spend another decade struggling to get a house that has two rooms rather than one. If that goes well – congratulations! – you can now think about an apartment in the school district.

With a house in the school district, children can attend Tsinghua or Peking University. But Tsinghua graduates will still not be able to afford a room in that district. They will then either need to stay crammed together in the old shabby family apartment, or start from scratch, struggling for an apartment.

4

In 2015, the movie Mr. Six hit the cinemas. In my friend circle, many ridiculed the movie’s character ‘Mr. Six’ for his Beijing air. But I was deeply touched.

After being in Beijing for over a decade, I refuse to go to Wukesong to see the Shougang [basketball] team, I refuse to go to the Worker’s Stadium to see the Guoan [football] team, because I don’t have a real love for them and because I can’t cuss with a Beijing accent. But after being in Beijing for so long, you reach a kind of conciliation with old Beijing people. You’ll understand them in a more three-dimensional way, and can no longer simply label them.

 

“For Beijing’s new immigrants, the city is a distant place where they can’t stay; for Beijing’s old residents, the city is an old home they can’t return to.”

 

In fact, not all of the Peking people are unfriendly towards outsiders, a lot of my friends are Beijing rich kids. And it’s not like there are no young people in Beijing seeking progress – most of Beijing youth are just as diligent as we are.

You can dislike ‘Mr. Six’, and you can dislike the arrogant Beijing way of cussing and bragging, but you still have to respect them. Like you respect people from the northeast wearing gold necklaces or respect Shandong people for eating Chinese onions. It’s their culture, these are their customs. You don’t have to be like them, but the least you can do is to show respect from a distance.

I once took a taxi to Lin Cui Road. Because I was afraid the driver wouldn’t know the way, I opened the navigation on my phone to help him find the way. He said he did not need the navigation, because he knew that place. There was a flour mill there 30 years ago, [he said], it was demolished 10 years ago, and they built low-income housing there. I asked him how he knew this so well. “That used to be my home,” he said, the sorrow showing in his face.

I could hear nostalgia and resentment from the driver’s words. For Beijing’s new immigrants, the city is a distant place where they can’t stay; for Beijing’s old residents, the city is an old home they can’t return to.

We, as outsiders, ridicule Beijing on the one hand, while on the other hand, we cherish our hometowns. But in fact, we can still go back to our hometown. It is still there. It’s just that, with the defeats of each passing day, we can no longer adapt there. But for the old Beijingers, there really is no way to go back to their hometown. It has changed with unprecedented speed. We can still find our grandfather’s old house. The majority of Beijingers can only find their old homes through the coordinates on a map.

Some people say that we as outsiders have built Beijing, that if it weren’t for us, Beijingers wouldn’t even have breakfast to eat. The large numbers of people coming from outside the city have raised the housing prices in Beijing – they’ve created a flourishing city. But do you believe it? The native Beijingers might not need this kind of flourishing, and they also do not want higher housing prices. They are just like us, wanting a home that does not have too many people or too much traffic.

5

 

“There are over 20 million people left in this city, pretending to live.”

 

This year, they’ve begun to brick up the core city of Beijing. More and more small shops, small hotels and restaurants are forced to close, more and more people in the low-end market are forced to leave. This type of dressing-down and losing-weight city management frantically puts Beijing on the road to being a high-end and classy city. But it is becoming less and less of a convenient and livable city, and it is becoming further and further removed from being a city with a tolerant and open spirit.

Those who chase their dreams of success are now escaping. They’re off to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or the West Coast of the United States. Those who’ve lost hope of chasing their dreams are also escaping. They returned to Hebei, the Northeast, and their hometowns.

There are over 20 million people left in this city, pretending to live. In reality, there simply is no life in this city. Here, all we have is the dreams of some people, and the jobs of most people.

–End—

Translated by Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kevin Ma

    July 29, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for your sharing!

  2. Hamza

    July 29, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Hey, do you have a link for the Chinese version,

  3. Daniel

    August 1, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    When I lived in Beijing a while ago, it was my least favourite city in China. Chengdu was steamy & sexy with the best food anywhere, Shanghai was thrilling, buzzing and futuristic, Shenzhen was boring but pleasant. Beijing however – it is a harsh, cold and unforgiving city. There’s a sense of Big Brother watching over you. The only city where I was ripped off by thieving shysters and more than once at that.

  4. John Myers

    August 26, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Zhang Guochen’s essay is badly needed in a country where these personal observations and feelings are censored. You might be able to validate many of his points throughout many large metropolises in China and throughout the world. This is the results of our modern world where progress and commerce over rule and push aside community and simple human interaction. People experiencing these situations should have the freedom to express their feelings in an honest way. This is a form of catharsis that can lead to dialog and healing. If censored, it will only manifest as unrest in the future.

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China Celebs

The Zhang Muyi & Akama Miki Controversy: From Teacher to Husband

The hashtag “Zhang Muyi & Akama Miki Getting Married” has over 100 million views on Weibo .

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Six years ago, Chinese pop star Zhang Muyi (24) declared his love for the then 12-year-old Canadian model Miki Akama. Now, their wedding announcement has become a most-discussed topic on Chinese social media – a highly controversial love affair.

The hashtag “Zhang Muyi & Akama Miki Getting Married” has over 100 million views on Weibo today. Some think the relationship between the pop singer and child star is pedophilic, others say it’s fate, but could it be a marketing strategy?

Watch our latest video on this topic here:

By Manya Koetse and Boyu Xiao

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

Six Years after Chinese Pop Star Zhang Muyi (24) Declared Love for 12-Year-Old Miki Akama, They’re Now Tying the Knot

Zhang Muyi became her music coach when Miki Akama was only 8 years old. A decade later, the couple announces their wedding on Weibo.

Boyu Xiao

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Six years after Chinese pop star Zhang Muyi (1987) publicly declared his love for the then 12-year-old music pupil Miki Akama (2000), the two have now announced their wedding on Weibo. Although some say their love is meant-to-be, others say it is a case of pedophilia.

In 2012, it made international headlines when the then 24-year-old Chinese popstar Zhang Muyi publicly declared his love for 12-year-old Canada-born model Miki Akama.

The two met when Zhang Muyi was hired to be Miki’s music coach when she was only 8 years old. In 2012, Muyi wrote on Weibo that he “simply couldn’t wait” for Miki’s next four birthdays to pass, saying he was “counting down each one.”

24-year-old Zhang and 12-year-old Miki in 2012.

At the time, the 12-year-old Miki, whose mother is Chinese/German and whose father is Japanese, had already built up a fanbase of 500,000 followers on Weibo. She replied to Zhang, saying: “Wait until I’m old enough to marry you, and then I’m going to say “I do”.’

Six years later, the now 30-year-old Zhang Muyi (@张木易, 1.4 million followers on Weibo), and the 17-year-old Miki Akama (@张千巽, 1.8 million Weibo fans) have announced their wedding through social media.

On April 4, Zhang wrote on Weibo: “You’ve made me see the most beautiful picture in this world,” adding a photo of a wedding dress. Miki responded to the post, writing: “You make me as beautiful as I can be.”

He later added: “We are indeed preparing for our wedding in all kinds of ways. On September 11, 2018, Miki will turn 18, and it will be ten years since we first met.”

The wedding announcement prompted a wave of reactions. Within 48 hours after the post, Zhang’s photo had received 23,800 responses and nearly 18,000 shares. The couple became one of the most-searched hot topics on social media in China on April 6, and the hashtag “Zhang Muyi and Miki Akama Getting Married” (#张木易张千巽结婚#) received more than 85 million views by Friday.

Although there are many netizens who wish the couple a happy life and find their story romantic, there are also many opponents who think the base of the couple’s relationship is unhealthy.

Weibo account @LoveMatters (an account affiliated to RNW Media) writes:

In most parts of the world, it is hard to give blessing to a relationship between a teacher and their student. The fundamental reason for this is that there is an unequal power relation between teachers and students, which makes it difficult to speak of an equal and truly harmonious connection between two people. Let alone if one of the two persons is underage; this further intensifies the unequal relationship in terms of knowledge and experience. Let’s not even focus on whether or not this is pedophilia.

“We should discuss this from the angle of pedophilia,” one netizen responds: “Because even though it is now disguised as ‘romantic love’, its base still essentially is the relationship between an adult and an 8-year-old girl.”

Many others also say that this a “white-washing of pedophilia,” with some expressing that it makes them “feel like vomiting.”

In response to the controversy, Miki addressed their engagement on Weibo in a lengthy blog post.

In her statement, Miki expresses the shock at the negativity surrounding their wedding engagement, saying that people are “turning this story into something they want it to be,” and that they are downgrading her to a “brainless girl” who has been “living in the dark” all her life.

“I do want to correct something,” she writes:

There are people who are changing our story and are using the fact that I was 8 years old [when we met], and in doing so, are harming us and our loved ones. In their articles, they are deleting the part that really matters: When I was 8, I met Muyi and he was my music teacher; teaching me how to sing and teaching me self-confidence. By the time I was 12, my parents had let me read many books and see many movies, and I had a good education at school. Many of my friends with the same age as me had started reaching puberty and I also started to think about who I liked. I could talk to Muyi about everything. He said that when I would reach the age of dating, he would help me check them out. At the time I did not understand what it meant, and he said he would not let me date bad guys, because it is very easy for people to get hurt. Looking back now, Muyi was also still young at that time, so I told him that if he did not want me to get hurt in the future, he should just marry me. At the time we were just joking around, like playing house. With that uncomplicated promise, I grew up with him by my side. Of course, we will stay pure until marriage.”

Regardless of Miki’s statement, many netizens still hold their own opinions about the matter. Some compare Zhang and Miki to the case of the Taiwan lyricist Li Kuncheng (李坤城) and his wife Lin Jingen (林靖恩, 1996).

The couple became a big topic of discussion in 2015, when the then 58-year-old Li tied the knot with the then 18-year-old Lin.

Li Kuncheng with his 40 year younger fiancee in 2015, image via Asianpopnews.com.

About Zhang and Miki, one commenter writes: “I don’t think this is as serious as pedophilia. The goal of pedophilia is unpure [sex], but they have been together a long time. Zhang has no evil intentions.”

Still, many people express their worries about the situation, wondering “where the parents are” in this, and saying that they do not want their own children to be influenced by this.

By now, some experts and KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) have also gotten involved in the matter. While influential Nanjing police officer Wang Haiding (王海丁, @江宁婆婆) condemns the relationship, famous Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe (@李银河) says it does not meet the criteria of pedophilia.

Renowned Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe answers a question on Weibo about whether this is pedophilia or not.

The three principles of sex that I have proposed are that it is is voluntary, between adults, and in private. If it is in line with these three principles, it is not punishable by law. The law can punish adults who have sex with girls under the age of 14, but if they wait with having sex until they are both adults, then the law cannot control them. (..) Pedophiles are people who sexually assault children. This is clearly not the case here.

Amidst all controversy and analyses, many netizens just jokingly say: “I’m also ready to meet my future spouse – too bad they’re still in kindergarten.”

UPDATE – see our latest video about this topic here:

By Manya Koetse and Boyu Xiao

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2017

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