Beijing is the capital city of the People’s Republic of China, the country’s second largest city after Shanghai and has long been regarded as the national political, cultural and educational centre. With an estimated urban population of 20 million in 2010, including a staggering 8 million non-permanent residents – the city has grown to become among the top 10 most populous urban areas in the world. The city of Beijing exists within a wider region, the Greater Beijing Region usually equated with the three province Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. Beijing’s position as capital of the largest country ruled by a Communist Party sets it apart from many other world cities, manifested in significant state involvement at the urban level.
Beijing is still an ‘emerging’ global city, having not yet achieved the same degree of connectivity and indispensability as more established world cities. Beijing’s spectacular hosting of the 2008 Olympics has given the city a platform to take its world city competitiveness to a new level. Beijing’s aspirations are being channelled through rapid urban infrastructure and transport development, comprehensive urban renewal programmes, rejuvenation of the central CBD to attract global firms, and the construction of a formidable skyline. The city is making big steps to ignite underdeveloped financial services and creative sectors, while maintaining a strong science and high technology base. In order to expand knowledge sectors, Beijing is extremely active in its attempt to attract highly qualified and skilled international workers.
Despite Beijing’s undoubted ambition and institutional significance, its rapid development is accompanied by troublesome problems that threaten to hold back the capital’s reputation and future. In the most high-profile case, the city’s environmental deficiencies are a deterrent to attracting tourists and financial professionals. Beijing faces weak development of SMEs and non-public enterprises, and an insufficient contribution towards economic growth by consumption. There are also widespread pockets of urban poverty, while the eviction and compensation of local communities under urban renewal programmes has been widely criticised.
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Image: Flickr Michael McDonough