Beijing and the Development of Dual Central Business Districts

By Zhou, Yu | The Geographical Review, July 1998 | Go to article overview

Beijing and the Development of Dual Central Business Districts


Zhou, Yu, The Geographical Review


Among the world's largest metropolises, Beijing is notable for its ancient roots and current transformations. Founded more than 3,000 years ago, the city has served as the national capital of China for at least eight centuries - during the last five feudal dynasties (Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, Qing) and, since 1949, for the People's Republic of China. Over the past decade the city's urban landscape has experienced dramatic changes. A research trip to Beijing in the summer of 1997 allowed me to investigate these changes. The choice of Beijing was not accidental: I grew up there and studied geography and urban planning for seven years at Beijing University before I came to the United States in 1989. It is the city to which I have always felt closest. Although I was well aware that Beijing was going through many changes, nothing prepared me for the sweeping transformations that had occurred since my previous visit, in 1992. The urban landscape and people's way o life differed so drastically that initially I was not sure this was where I had resided for twenty-four years. Even lifelong residents have similar feelings: One friend told me, "If I don't go to this section of town for several months, many of the streets and buildings can become unrecognizable."

This note tracks one aspect of urban development in Beijing, the emergence of a central business district (CBD). Before I left China in 1989 I led a group of graduate students in drawing up a developmental plan for one of Beijing's major retail centers, Xidan. This site, we thought, would probably grow from a retail center into a CBD of Beijing (Peng, Zhou, and Qi 1989). Although the memory remained fresh, it took me no time to realize how obsolete our conclusion had become eight years later. The location of Beijing's CBD, however, remains an interesting matter.

The CBD is the most visible landmark in many Western and Third World colonial cities. Even with the decline of central cities in many metropolitan areas throughout the united States, the unmistakable cluster of high-rises in the middle of a built-up urban area is as conspicuous as ever. Many high-level business services such as finance, advertising, and government continue to gravitate to CBDs, despite more-dispersed patterns of other sectors and so-called back offices, which conduct routine data and information processing instead of directly interacting with clients. But in Beijing visitors who want to find a visible CBD by scanning the landscape may face a challenge. Both as the capital of a feudal empire and as the epicenter of a centrally planned socialist economy, Beijing developed its enormous size and sophisticated urban structure without a CBD. This is changing, however, with advancing market reforms that have dramatically altered the urban structure and landscape of Beijing.

Yet the market reform has not transformed Beijing into just another capitalist city. The entangled relationship between state bureaucracy and market forces, including the notable complications of urban land markets, has produced a unique spatial configuration in Beijing, represented in part by its CBD. In Beijing there is a marked spatial divide between the international and trade-oriented eastern business center and the government- and finance-oriented western business center, almost symmetrically located on two sides of the old city [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. During my summer visit I interviewed numerous planners, scholars, real estate developers, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens in the city and collected information from various publications. This record note summarizes some of my findings about how and why the duality arose.

A CITY WITHOUT A CBD

It is not difficult to understand why Beijing did not have a CBD. Throughout its feudal history, the city was always a political center of China. Government and bureaucracy were its main foundation, overshadowing even its economic importance.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beijing and the Development of Dual Central Business Districts
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.