yet to receive input from any one of the nine, this writer can but perch o'er aonian streams, pawing at dregs of genius as they pass her by. 

A State of Passing: Tongzhou and the Committee Grid

A State of Passing: Tongzhou and the Committee Grid

For a central government staffed by engineers[1] and a nation who finds its pride staring down the barrel of a cement mixer[2], infrastructure and its rapid development has long served as cross-provincial cornerstone of modern China. The sky is lifted and terra firma resounds as ‘heaven’s magnate’ remains clenched firmly in one or another CCP mitt. Between 2010 and 2015, 189 billion US Dollars slipped from the self-same mitt into 232 yearly miles of subterranean rail - 31 cities across the country flexing with the electrified power of sunken transportation.[3] To induce a sense of the Atlas-scale forces at play, the PRC was creating the entirety of London’s subway network and spending 1.5x the GDP of Ukraine on an annual basis. With the ambition for hypogean activities racing at speeds faster than their accompanying jackhammer fleet, the urban networks screech and howl along 2,700 miles of track that is set to be elongated past 4,000 by 2020. As transit blogger Yonah Freemark writes, such industrial vigour puts the US infrastructure plan to bed with tears of shame wetting its infantile bonnet.[4] Construction workers have swing targets for their sledgehammers across upcoming years and decades, the people ‘swarming like ants’ around their industrial centres are provided low-cost, zero-maintenance ferries across otherwise formidable overland trenches and less cars are run upon the polluting trunks of by-lanes, highways and ring-roads - all to the general benefit of party and populace. As Wade Shepard remarked in his investigation of civic birth and destitution Ghost Cities of China, ‘the role that China’s metro plays in the social and economic development of its new towns and cities cannot be underestimated.’[5]

 'Pipe down, will you?'

'Pipe down, will you?'

Nowhere does the CCP ferret more ruthlessly pursue its prize of infrastructural development than in Beijing, Tianjin and the province of Hebei that surrounds them. Since liberation, Beijing’s whirring anti-PLA of bureaucrats, typists, administrators and propagandists have trailed their imperial predecessors by crowding into the dense urban zone immediately proximate to the Forbidden City and its Tian’anmen neighbour.[6] Like some expanded royalist retinue preaching against divine right, the ever-ballooning pew on pew of civil servant have pushed further and further away from the tight locus of their inception into swelling encroachment on the surroundings and all their historicity.[7] In part to combat any further destruction this corpulent bureaucracy will continue to inflict upon its neighbours, those reclining in the leather of upper management have sweated out a plan to unite some 130 million residents in a parody of the megacity described in official material as Jing-Jin-Ji.[8]. Jing for Beijing, Jin for Tianjin and Ji for Hebei’s traditional provincial designation. Spurring industrial development and uniting a workforce in some grandiose Asimovian fancy or other, the project’s most visible extraneous arm is the nascent city of Xiong’an - an envisioned green metropolis to occupy the farmed plains of northern Hebei and crowd out the sky while dominating industry in that most atomic age of ways. An initial loan of 36 billion US was duly meted from the Development Bank in 2017[9] and Morgan Stanley predicts investment could reach 300 billion dollars before a decade has passed.[10] The resounding sounds of picks and hammers against subterranean growth so familiar to the ears of all PRC citizens have begun the extra-Sinically unfeasible task of linking this sprawling venture to central Beijing, some 60 miles away to the south.

Yet while Xiong’an may be Babel to the Central Committee’s architectural Old Testament, a foreboding concrete David has long lain in Beijing’s suburbs atop the Grand Canal’s very northern extremity as vital organ of the pulsating Jing-Jin-Ji prospects. With old Peking tensing beneath the fatalistic strain of its vast populace[11], such sprawling suburbs as Tongzhou (通州 - one literal interpretation of this character pair would read ’territory to pass by’) are inflated with the kind of energy and self-sufficiency that characterises a full-scale city in many another nation. Districts dotted around the imperial centre - such as Shunyi in the north-east wing of the capital - come fitted replete with a full set of internal workings such that one need never leave their limited compound. Tongzhou is unique not in its size, but in the tender touch alloted it by CCP mitt - Midas be damned, the Central Committee’s finger is pure alchemy. Residential complexes tower away from multi-storey flyovers cocooning leisure and retail complexes beyond a scale that Barbara Kruger could adequately ridicule[12] while the Batong line plugging this external node into the mainframe was among the first expansions to be germinated from the initial Beijing core of lines 1 and 2 in 2003. The once fertile plain atop Tongzhou has cowered into submission before the heaving crush of urbanites and their planners - oozing quadrants of concrete stowed away in and over grass-and-wheat-land that simply does not hold the value it once did. A population of 1.2 million was totalled at the last recording - a figure likely to be held entirely outmoded by the time of the next census come 2020.

 'Nice  Chai'  - a resident of old Peking faces down demolition. 

'Nice Chai' - a resident of old Peking faces down demolition. 

This apparently unstoppable hurtle along the road to greater development and closer integration of the extra-polis is hardly going to be braked by a Central Committee ordination uprooting the municipal government from their ‘ancestral’ home and out along the Batong into Tongzhou’s nominal suburbia.[13] This forcible disengagement of tens upon thousands of civil servants from their limpet anchorage of so many decades amounts to a tacit acknowledgement by the Jinping administration of a fact clear to urban planners since the 1950s - that ensconcing such enormous administrative clout within the unsubtle confines of ancient Beijing has deepened both the open sores of congestion and revolutionary destruction of Chinese heritage intangible and otherwise.[14] Of the mid–2017 exodus Thomas Hahn, scholar of urban China, remarked: ‘The move is ironic given that earlier planners advocated something similar in the 1950s. They were outmaneuvered, which eventually led to the wholesale gutting of the traditional urban core.’[15] Official position holds that this biblical restructuring will serve as leech to suck the various ‘urban diseases’ - traffic congestion and air pollution - known to plague Northern Capital from its bloodstream. Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong stood before the 13th National People’s Congress to declare ‘It is incumbent on Tongzhou to initiate a project that will bring about a major breakthrough,’ with his municipal commission subsequently outlining an unprecedented pair of work reports designed to mould the secondary centre’s burgeoning pulse.[16] The new Beijing East Railway Station will be flicked into place with PRC nonchalance, connecting Tongzhou to the 16,000 miles of bullet-rail that criss-cross mainland China while ten of the 21 subway lines currently extant on blackboards and in the air of planning meetings shall touch sparks through the new sub-centre. Tongzhou has received its fingertip-blessing and seen upgrade from ‘Satellite City’ to ‘Modern International New City’[17] in party line and among party officials. As heady development block lacking either soul or concrete links to a discernible past beyond gauche ‘retro’ lip-gloss and import wine shops selling Chateau d’expense from 1962, Tongzhou certainly appears up there with the resolute grey of other, similarly flat, modern urban spurts across the globe.

Yet if Tongzhou could stretch its arms to their furthest extreme without hitting the Central Business District or imperial Beijing itself, it may surprise both resident and reader to learn that this apparent afterthought of an outcropping would be able to unfurl its limbs to a time before the foundation, even, of its inviolable neighbour. Dating back to the Western Han dynasty, Tongzhou has seen uninterrupted residence since the early BCs. Before crossing their own Rubicon away from old Peking, the municipal government commissioned over 2,000 archaeologists to poke about in the marsh soon to play home to their official click-clacking.[18] Over seven months, a staggering ten thousand items of some or other cultural significance were unearthed from amongst the vacant atom-scape of the inflating suburb. Amongst Warring State pottery and a series of tombs was unearthed Lucheng, an ancient city dating to 220 B.C. and the Han Dynasty. Later, both Ming and Liao dynasties gazed upon the satellite of their grand capitals with enough twinkle to see building a moat yawning a staggering 30–50 metres of width fitting tribute to its importance in the east quarter. Similar weight was placed on its topographical import by the imperial Japanese, who were occupying it with puppet strings attached to the East Hopei Government in 1937.[19] In July of that year, a military attache marched forth by General Song Zheyuan established themselves outside Tongzhou’s walls and refused to unfold their rifle-bearing arms until the ‘Japanese devils’ had made like Augustus and formed hasty retreat. The Japanese garrison commander made flat refusal and combat erupted with fountains of blood and the flash of bayonets. Outgunned and outmanned, GMD forces were backed into a corner between the fortified wall and an encroaching imperial force. Violent slaughter of one side was assured until the mutiny of East Hopei’s Japan-trained 1st and 2nd Corps turned the slaughter on its head.[20] The Japanese garrison was strung to a man - left gutted and in many cases disemboweled - the event is cited as one among the many of that lollipop-sticky summer to pluck the Second Sino-Japanese war into life. Decades later, many of the refugees escaping political persecution in the wake of Tian’anmen and its titular massacre found themselves on the run through Tongzhou on the road to Hong Kong - its somewhat beleaguered connection to the rail network less policed than that of central Beijing.

 Losing Hopei: the Japanese victims at Tungchow. 

Losing Hopei: the Japanese victims at Tungchow. 

If not historically bereft, CCP-era Tongzhou certainly does its best to mask the fact. Presenting itself as the architectural plaything of an alternate dimension, sensory-deprived Lin Benlin, its spread of post-communist buildings strike with their function over form - offending the visual cortex enough to remind even the most hard-edged of utilitarianists that beauty does hold inherent power. The flayed intestine of a canal doing its best to flow alongisde the Batong line into the district is of form baleful enough to accompany its home. Banked by concrete flaked with the rayed attacks of daily heat and home only to the kind of browned weeds even a crustacean would see as beneath itself, the flowing scar serves as manifestation of the whole suburb’s attitude to existence. Things need not exceed their most base function and to do so would equate with excessive budgets and limited expansion rates. Across millenia, this addendum to the east of Beijing has existed and served - finding coal-faced, mixer-poured destiny in our 21st century alongside the Central Committee and its little ferret limbs powering through the tubes and piping of infrastructural power. As illustrative node in the great web of concrete force that the CCP mitt gestures into being on an annual basis, Tongzhou - this less than sleepy suburb - serves the essayist well. Centred amidst the frantic locus of expanding underground transport, sporting enough blank-faced housing to host an army and crammed with all the strategic retail to satisfy any potential first-world requirement, it is an unsightly, ungainly spectre carrying all the good and much of the bad this government has and will continue to inflict on the Middle Kingdom in its care. A sad place that somehow musters confidence, a back-to-front void that somehow connects; Tongzhou is un-stuck even as we and China are all stuck with Tongzhou.


  1. https://china.usc.edu/sites/default/files/legacy/AppImages/china-government-engineers.pdf  ↩

  2. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2160660/china-goes-back-old-habits-government-pumps-spending  ↩

  3. https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/02/chinas-subway-boom-slows-down/552935/  ↩

  4. https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2018/01/17/in-response-to-growth-chinese-cities-choose-metros/  ↩

  5. Shepard, Wade. Ghost Cities of China. Zed Books, Limited, 2015, p.16  ↩

  6. Wang, Jun. Beijing Record: A Physical And Political History Of Planning Modern Beijing. World Scientific, 2011. P. 129  ↩

  7. Liang, Samuel Y. Remaking China’s Great Cities: Space and Culture in Urban Housing, Renewal, and Expansion. Routledge, 2017. P. 4  ↩

  8. “China Plans a City the Size of New England That’ll Be Home to 130 Million.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/news/world/jing-jin-ji-china-planning-megalopolis-size-new-england-n734736.; YONGNIAN, ZHENG. CHINA’S EVOLVING INDUSTRIAL POLICIES AND ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING. ROUTLEDGE, 2017 P. 212  ↩

  9. Forbes, Forbes Magazine, www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/12/08/chinas–110-million-person-jing-jin-ji-megaregion-gets-a-new–36-billion-railway-plan/&refURL=https://www.google.co.uk/&referrer=https://www.google.co.uk/.  ↩

  10. “China’s Newly Imagined ‘Green’ City Gets Its First $19 Billion in Funding.” Fortune, Fortune, fortune.com/2017/04/28/china-xiongan-new-area/.  ↩

  11. Wang, Jun. Beijing Record: A Physical And Political History Of Planning Modern Beijing. World Scientific, 2011. P. 123  ↩

  12. SHAO, ZISHENG. NEW URBAN AREA DEVELOPMENT: a Case Study in China. SPRINGER, 2016. P. 378  ↩

  13. “Beijing Municipal Government to Move Offices to Suburbs – Reports.” Hong Kong Free Press HKFP, 15 June 2015, www.hongkongfp.com/2015/06/15/beijing-municipal-government-to-move-offices-to-suburbs-reports/.  ↩

  14. “China Aims to Move Beijing Government Out of City’s Crowded Core.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/world/asia/china-aims-to-move-beijing-government-out-of-citys-crowded-core.html.  ↩

  15. Ibid  ↩

  16. “Beijing’s Tongzhou: Rapidly on Its Way to Becoming a Modern, International New City.” InsuranceNewsNet, 18 Oct. 2010, insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/Beijings-Tongzhou-Rapidly-on-Its-Way-to-Becoming-a-Modern-International-New-C-a–230730.  ↩

  17. “Beijing City Sub Center Planning Comes out! Tongzhou: from Satellite City to Sub Center.” Jqknews, 16 July 2018, www.jqknews.com/news/43489-Beijing_City_sub_center_planning_comes_out_Tongzhou_from_satellite_city_to_sub_center.html.  ↩

  18. ?? . “Traces of the Past– Beijing Review.” The Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China – Beijing Review, www.bjreview.com/Lifestyle/201612/t20161212_800074373.html.  ↩

  19. Henriot, Christian, and Wen-Hsin Yeh. In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: Shanghai under Japanese Occupation. Cambridge University Press, 2009. P. 131  ↩

  20. Hsu, Long-hsuen, et al. History of the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). Chung Wu Publishing, 1985. P. 177–80  ↩


Works Cited

Forbes, Forbes Magazine, www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/12/08/chinas-110-million-person-jing-jin-ji-megaregion-gets-a-new-36-billion-railway-plan/&refURL=https://www.google.co.uk/&referrer=https://www.google.co.uk/.

“Beijing City Sub Center Planning Comes out! Tongzhou: from Satellite City to Sub Center.” Jqknews, 16 July 2018, www.jqknews.com/news/43489-Beijing_City_sub_center_planning_comes_out_Tongzhou_from_satellite_city_to_sub_center.html.

“Beijing Municipal Government to Move Offices to Suburbs – Reports.” Hong Kong Free Press HKFP, 15 June 2015, www.hongkongfp.com/2015/06/15/beijing-municipal-government-to-move-offices-to-suburbs-reports/.

“Beijing's Tongzhou: Rapidly on Its Way to Becoming a Modern, International New City.” InsuranceNewsNet, 18 Oct. 2010, insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/Beijings-Tongzhou-Rapidly-on-Its-Way-to-Becoming-a-Modern-International-New-C-a-230730.

“China Aims to Move Beijing Government Out of City's Crowded Core.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/world/asia/china-aims-to-move-beijing-government-out-of-citys-crowded-core.html.

“China Plans a City the Size of New England That'll Be Home to 130 Million.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/news/world/jing-jin-ji-china-planning-megalopolis-size-new-england-n734736.

“China Pumps up Spending on Infrastructure Once Again.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 21 Aug. 2018, www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2160660/china-goes-back-old-habits-government-pumps-spending.

“China's Newly Imagined 'Green' City Gets Its First $19 Billion in Funding.” Fortune, Fortune, fortune.com/2017/04/28/china-xiongan-new-area/.

Henriot, Christian, and Wen-Hsin Yeh. In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: Shanghai under Japanese Occupation. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Hsu, Long-hsuen, et al. History of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Chung Wu Publishing, 1985.

Liang, Samuel Y. Remaking China's Great Cities: Space and Culture in Urban Housing, Renewal, and Expansion. Routledge, 2017.

Poon, Linda, and CityLab. “Was China's Subway Boom Too Fast Too Soon?” CityLab, 26 Feb. 2018, www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/02/chinas-subway-boom-slows-down/552935.

SHAO, ZISHENG. NEW URBAN AREA DEVELOPMENT: a Case Study in China. SPRINGER, 2016.

Shepard, Wade. Ghost Cities of China. Zed Books, Limited, 2015.

“US-China Institute |.” Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China," June 27, 1981 | US-China Institute, 12 Apr. 2018, china.usc.edu/.

Wang, Jun. Beijing Record: A Physical And Political History Of Planning Modern Beijing. World Scientific, 2011.

YONGNIAN, ZHENG. CHINA'S EVOLVING INDUSTRIAL POLICIES AND ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING. ROUTLEDGE, 2017.

吉菁 . “Traces of the Past-- Beijing Review.” The Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China -- Beijing Review, www.bjreview.com/Lifestyle/201612/t20161212_800074373.html.



  1. https://china.usc.edu/sites/default/files/legacy/AppImages/china-government-engineers.pdf  ↩

  2. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2160660/china-goes-back-old-habits-government-pumps-spending  ↩

  3. https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/02/chinas-subway-boom-slows-down/552935/  ↩

  4. https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2018/01/17/in-response-to-growth-chinese-cities-choose-metros/  ↩

  5. Shepard, Wade. Ghost Cities of China. Zed Books, Limited, 2015, p.16  ↩

  6. Wang, Jun. Beijing Record: A Physical And Political History Of Planning Modern Beijing. World Scientific, 2011. P. 129  ↩

  7. Liang, Samuel Y. Remaking China’s Great Cities: Space and Culture in Urban Housing, Renewal, and Expansion. Routledge, 2017. P. 4  ↩

  8. “China Plans a City the Size of New England That’ll Be Home to 130 Million.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/news/world/jing-jin-ji-china-planning-megalopolis-size-new-england-n734736.; YONGNIAN, ZHENG. CHINA’S EVOLVING INDUSTRIAL POLICIES AND ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING. ROUTLEDGE, 2017 P. 212  ↩

  9. Forbes, Forbes Magazine, www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/12/08/chinas–110-million-person-jing-jin-ji-megaregion-gets-a-new–36-billion-railway-plan/&refURL=https://www.google.co.uk/&referrer=https://www.google.co.uk/.  ↩

  10. “China’s Newly Imagined ‘Green’ City Gets Its First $19 Billion in Funding.” Fortune, Fortune, fortune.com/2017/04/28/china-xiongan-new-area/.  ↩

  11. Wang, Jun. Beijing Record: A Physical And Political History Of Planning Modern Beijing. World Scientific, 2011. P. 123  ↩

  12. SHAO, ZISHENG. NEW URBAN AREA DEVELOPMENT: a Case Study in China. SPRINGER, 2016. P. 378  ↩

  13. “Beijing Municipal Government to Move Offices to Suburbs – Reports.” Hong Kong Free Press HKFP, 15 June 2015, www.hongkongfp.com/2015/06/15/beijing-municipal-government-to-move-offices-to-suburbs-reports/.  ↩

  14. “China Aims to Move Beijing Government Out of City’s Crowded Core.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/world/asia/china-aims-to-move-beijing-government-out-of-citys-crowded-core.html.  ↩

  15. Ibid  ↩

  16. “Beijing’s Tongzhou: Rapidly on Its Way to Becoming a Modern, International New City.” InsuranceNewsNet, 18 Oct. 2010, insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/Beijings-Tongzhou-Rapidly-on-Its-Way-to-Becoming-a-Modern-International-New-C-a–230730.  ↩

  17. “Beijing City Sub Center Planning Comes out! Tongzhou: from Satellite City to Sub Center.” Jqknews, 16 July 2018, www.jqknews.com/news/43489-Beijing_City_sub_center_planning_comes_out_Tongzhou_from_satellite_city_to_sub_center.html.  ↩

  18. ?? . “Traces of the Past– Beijing Review.” The Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China – Beijing Review, www.bjreview.com/Lifestyle/201612/t20161212_800074373.html.  ↩

  19. Henriot, Christian, and Wen-Hsin Yeh. In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: Shanghai under Japanese Occupation. Cambridge University Press, 2009. P. 131  ↩

  20. Hsu, Long-hsuen, et al. History of the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). Chung Wu Publishing, 1985. P. 177–80  ↩

Borderline Eleutheromania: a <i>Sinic's</i> Quest Along National Lines

Borderline Eleutheromania: a Sinic's Quest Along National Lines