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A Month in Beijing

If you ever have a chance to live in Beijing for one month, would your views of China change? Can you imagine China being the most developed country in the world, at least in terms of infrastructure? Would you still dispute the statement that you can see blue skies on most days in Beijing? Welcome to the capital of the North, or rather, the Middle Kingdom!

Cleanliness: First, Beijing is one of the cleanest cities in the world. There are no rubbish lying around. Citizens can complain/report directly to municipality via WeChat messaging if any rubbish is left uncollected or uncleared. On the streets, on the walkways, on the overhead bridges, in buildings, there is simply no visible unsightly trash. There is no smell of stale urine that usually welcomes you in the European capitals of London and Paris. No loveable rodents running around just like in the subways of New York either. Very well kept and maintained infrastructure, bringing back memories of downtown Chicago.

Hardworking: Everyone in Beijing is so hardworking. From taxi drivers to deliverymen to cleaners, everyone is working tirelessly, believing in this country, its leadership and the fact that they do not want to fall back into the dark days of the great leap backward and the cultural revolution. They are thankful for the opportunities to be able to work hard to earn a decent living. The stories told by old folks of half of their villages starving to death are still afresh in many people minds.

Order and organisation everywhere: Based on our guesstimate, China may have more CCTV cameras than people. Every lamppost or higher up structure is fitted with 3 or 4 cameras looking at every angle to record every single movement of everyone. Other than your own private residence and the toilet, you will not be able to avoid being tracked. Hence, people behave. Everything is orderly. People queue at trains and entrances. Anti social behaviour is close to non existent. You would feel super safe that you could even leave your mobile around. You cannot find baggers either.

Most of the Chinese order things online, making payment via WeChat pay or Alipay. Then when the parcels arrived, the packages were just left lying around the drop zone. Anyone could have gone to pick any parcel or pilfer. But it does not happen. People just search for their individual package among many others, pick up what belongs to them and left. We would be hard pressed to find any other country in this world, being able to top that. The projection of integrity starts from the very bottom.

Food was good: Beijing food is typical Chinese food. Being the capital with 23 million people and a reasonable number of foreign population (all embassies are here), the food of your liking would not be difficult to find. The prices are very reasonable too. Chinese government always have the intention to ensure that the prices do not become out of reach from the majority of the working class – a recipe for social unrest.

Traffic and pollution: As recent as five years ago, Beijing air is famously polluted. But the change from coal power plants to nuclear and hydropower, decisively, ensures that blue skies are now visible from downtown Beijing. The car population has been controlled. Without a residency permit, do not even dream of buying a car in Beijing. Not allowed. Even Beijing residents have less than 1% chance of winning a permit in a car permit lottery system.

But do not lose heart. Metro cost is extremely cheap and it covers Beijing well. The max cost for a single trip is around 75c, regardless of how far you travel.

The capital also no longer allows motor bikes on the road. All new bikes are electric, hence no air or noise pollution from millions of these vehicles. Electric cars are also everywhere, showcasing that the country is ahead of the curve in this world and in line for reaching its targeted carbon neutrality by 2060.

The vastness and ring roads: Beijing occupies such a large area that having one or two ring road encircling the capital is not enough. It has seven major ring roads in all. A feat not seen in any capital on earth.

Attractions: If you want to learn 500 years of China history Beijing is the place to be. Great Wall, Old summer palace (that the British and French destroyed), New summer palace, Forbidden city, etc., awaits you in this ancient capital. The entrance fees are not expensive either. E.g., Beijing zoo entrance ticket just cost $4. Singapore zoo ticket cost $20.

Of course, being in a new city comes with its own set of difficulties. First and foremost would be the language barrier. The second would be the extensive use of digital payments. Cash is seldom used by locals and hence some shops are always short on change. Albeit these minor adjustments, you would be pleasantly surprised to realise that actions are more valuable compared to ideologies, the importance of good leadership in nations building and eventually, how overrated the concept of democracy is.