Modern Beijing (现代北京)

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Beijing Skyline

Beijing Skyline

Like many megalopolis in the world, Beijing has two sides: a modern one and an old one.

Most foreigners visiting Beijing for the first time will likely be amazed by the city’s size, its huge boulevards that don’t seem to end, its spotless sidewalks, its tall buildings and huge shopping malls. China borrowed from the West and you can now find McDonalds (麦当劳), Starbucks (星巴克), KFC (肯德基) and other “delicacies” everywhere.

The city got a facelift before the Olympics. There were only two subway lines until 2000 but it rapidly expanded to 8 lines and 123 stations after 2001, and additional lines are still under constructions. It is now the easiest way to navigate the city… Meanwhile, Beijing’s airport underwent a major expansion, adding the new Terminal 3, the world’s largest airport terminal. Brand new skyscrapers, the kind Chinese people used to see in Shanghai and Hong Kong appeared on the city skyline. The famous Silk Market was relocated in a modern building and pedestrian streets such as Wangfujing (王府井) were renovated.

The city has changed. Some regret it, some praise it, some love it, some hate it.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. WOW! Zhu, you have really captured some great scenes here. I think this really brings home how much impact the Olympics has on a city. And I can understand exactly the feeling of both sides… those that are saddened by the change and those that are happy. I wonder what changes will happen here in England, as they progress with the preparation for the next Games in 2012. If you are planning to come to the UK to see any of that show, then my door will always open for you both, and you would be very welcome.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with us all, it has been so enjoyable 🙂

    Grahams last great read…A little preview of where I live and work

  2. Hey Zhu,

    I think that some of the reactions to the changes in Beijing are quite normal: people are always reluctant to accept and welcome modernity! It is the same for every single human being in the world (specially those who have reach a certain stage in their lives).

    Loved the photos: it is a lovely city indeed.

    I have one thing to say though: sometimes I fear that the world is becoming the same wherever you go. A few years ago, you could be abducted and yet know exactly where you were; but nowadays you open your eyes and you can be just anywhere: London, Paris, Beijing, NYC…wherever, since they are all beginning to look the same!

    Cheers, cherie

    Max Coutinhos last great read…Physical World: its purpose

  3. Personally I would prefer the old Beijing….now it has become just another City and as you know Singapore is a packed City I need fresh air…so Canada is nice 😀

  4. i love your pics, zhu. and your thoughtful observances. i’ve never been to beijing, but looking at the pictures, i’m happy for the people that live there. it looks like a modern clean city. there are much worse places in the world.
    but too, just judging from the few photographs you show, it looks a bit generic. if you didn’t tell me it was beijing, i would have guessed it was minneapolis or something like it. it has no… how should i phrase it?… it has no character. there is nothing to define it from anywhere else.
    i’m probably being unfair. i’m sure beijing has it’s statue of liberty, it’s eiffel tower, it’s london bridge. right?

    Seraphines last great read…Who Can Say NO to Drugs, Sex and Oil?

  5. Hi Zhu,

    China has indeed undergone massive development and modernization which arguably cost a steep price – in economical,cultural, and humanitarian factors. No doubt, there will be supporters and detractors to the effort.

    However, considering the population density and the need to sustain all the requirements of its humongous size, the transformation was inevitable. Its role as an emerging power is also a contributor to ensuring this sustainability.

    The old charm missed can still be found in the nooks and crevices of China’s cities. With time, all these will reappear at the forefront when the country morphs further into a less self-conscious and more merchant oriented attitude, borne of the citizen’s natural inclinations and ingenuity. 🙂 –Durano, done!

    durano lawayans last great read…Palin and the Prophecy of the Pig

  6. @Graham – Oh, I’d love to go to the UK for the next Olympics, but I bet London is gonna be pretty expensive… More than Beijing!

    The UK put up a great show during the closing ceremony, I loved it (and I thought of you!). Jimmy Paige, the mayor, Beckam, a double-decker bus… I’m sure the OG will be very different from Beijing’s but the UK should be a great host.

    @DianeCA – I agree, I’m not a mall person. However, the malls have a Chinese twist as well and there are quite fun.

    @Tend & co – Thank you for dropping by… and for the praise!

    @Annie – I find this modern side fascinating because it changed so much since the last time I was there.

    @kyh – Beijing was bound to change, but I think it still has its roots, like I showed in the following post 😉

    @Max Coutinho – I totally understand and I agree with you. That said, China’s modernity fascinates me because it was so sudden and unexpected.

    @nhuong – Same here! It’s a wonderful city. So much energy…

    @Froggywoogie – Thank you!

    @shionge – Beijing is crowded, that’s for sure. I like the contrast with Canada though!

    @Seraphine – To be honest, it really depends on the district. Some are really old and traditional but the new suburbs are very modern… it’s a bipolar city!

    @durano lawayan – Beijing still has a lot of charm in my opinion. It changed, for sure, but Beijinger love their history and are creative people. It will still be Beijing… just more modern on the surface.

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