The Chinese capital of Beijing is a pretty big city all told – over 21 million people. Recently the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square was commemorated. I saw a fascinating program on television where they interviewed those involved in the mass protests and it included a lot of footage actually shot at the time (not of the military moving in but of the build up – the student protesters had been occupying the square for weeks). I can only presume that the footage was off news broadcasts and foreign journalists.
China of just 30 years ago appears a world apart compared today, although in a place like Beijing there is an interesting mix of the ancient, the present day and the days from 1947 until maybe 20 years ago where communism to the local simply meant work and repression, and praising the state a lot.
Not that the state is not still meant to be the most important thing to the people China. However, today they have freedom to travel outside China, and Chinese communism in 2019 is blended in with a form of capitalism the Communist Party is okay with.
The footage I saw was not just of military action. It was of the students in the square, meeting with party leaders and the like. The fashion of the day was influenced somewhat by the 80s of the Western world – which surprised me. Not that it was everyone or even half the people who appeared. The footage was striking in its clarity/picture quality too.
Today Beijing, which I realise I haven’t posted that much about, still shows signs of the “darker” shall we say days of communism. You will still see big, foreboding grey buildings – the main train station is a prime example. There is a strange grandeur filled with darkness in this style. You see Tiananmen Square as well, and that famous picture of Mao Tse Tung watching over those that pass.
And I also remember my time there in 1986, when China was slightly opening its own doors to visitors. And I remember it being grey, run down, untended in some ways – I guess the best way I can sum it up is it needed a lick of paint!
Today, everything is brighter and more colourful. The leafy streets around the Forbidden Palace have an almost European feel to them, the people are cheerful, more expressive. You could almost forget in China they still execute political prisoners and control the media, and block facebook, gmail and the like!
Other parts of the city a bigger, taller, and then you have fashion boutiques sort of built in, and other western style stores. My hotel was quite dated, and still felt a little… I keep wanting to say ‘Soviet’. And in some ways – I found it charming. And yet I had the urge to check for bugs.
For me, Beijing is a part of China separate from China. Little leafy suburbs, huge wide roads through the middle, grey and big foreboding buildings, the ancient reverence of the Forbidden Palace. You can get the feel, or A feel, for a place very quickly. I was there two days.
Thanks for reading – have you visited Beijing and what did it do for you? May the Journey Never End!