Freitag, 2. Dezember 2011

2 Beijing. A journey through the city

To get from the northern part of Beijing, where I lived, into the city center, there are several possibilities. Once it is the U5, I could see from my window, because the subway runs along on a bridge, which stands on stilts. Driving towards the town it disappeared before the next station in the underground. Till its final station, which is located in a satellite town it remains above the earth. During the rush hours a train comes every three minutes. Due to the explosively growing satellite towns one builds a second line just below through the underground. If I read correctly, Beijing will add within the next five years ten new lines to their already well-developed subway network. During rush hours it happened to me many times that I could not go with the next two trains. They were already too breaking full of people.
The platforms are typically secured with transparent walls. The train comes in and stops with its doors just in front of the doors in the wall. These open automatically. Before coming to the platform, the police checks luggage and bags like at the airport. The subway and all buses are used with a rechargeable plastic card. The ticket purchase is also possible from the conductor in the bus. Most of the time you will stand in the subway, in the bus getting more likely a seat. The subway wagons are not divided in the length of the train. The plastic card is held over a scanner box and so the gate opens. Leaving the destination station will be automatically debited on scanning and the remaining balance on the card is displayed.
The Chinese push into the railway, but never on an aggressive manner. The traffic behavior seemed to be also defensive, rather smooth.
The stations path is displayed above on the door. Diodes of different colors facilitate orientation. A flashing LED indicates the next station. A fine thing. Station information comes also over the loudspeaker.
By the time the subway stations were an excellent guide for me in Beijing.
With the electronic ticket method of course no inspectors are necessary on the train. I would say, speed and noise level are similar to the subway of Berlin. Graffiti is absent altogether, modernity and cleanliness are much better than in Berlin. I felt absolutely safe in the wagons and stations, because there is enough security personnel present.

As I wrote in another post, the younger ones offer its seat to the old people who enjoy the traditional respect in the society. Even if they did not, the conductor would very quickly ask them to get up.
As in Germany, in Beijing, the young people deal with their cell phones, some lost in computer games.
Not all Chinese are of a smaller stature. I often met large grown women and men.
During the rush hours, especially in the afternoons, I have seen in certain subway stations real crowds. Incredibly, even today are these pictures for me. Many hundreds were moving slowly through a separating type of long-guidance for changing from one platform to another. Nothing happens, no panic, no pushing or shoving. I have to admire that. How do they do it only. Well, they grew up with it.
A small mystery remains. During the day one cannot see any trucks on the streets in order to supply the supermarkets. Everything has to happen at night.
At the stations come constantly buses and indeed so many, that there is no need for timetables. Many photos show that taxes dominate the streets of Beijing. Sometimes you can get one within one minute waiting. Fares are low like those of other transport means.

These three photos I took during my walking tours through the city. I can well explain the typical behavior in the Beijing traffic. It is really interesting, very flexible and not chaotic, as is often claimed.
First: I've seen in all the time no accidents in Beijing, only once from the bus a small sheet damage of a car. You see, that no one wears a helmet on this hot June day. It is also easy to see how hazy it is. The sea is not too far, causing the inflow of humid air masses. Two photos show the same intersection, delayed only by a few seconds.
We look down from the pedestrian bridge and are aware that traffic has stopped at the straight red. In any case the cars remain stopped. The left lane has green light for going ahead. For our pedestrians and cyclists it is still red (not visible). This is only a "recommendation", as well as green light. The pedestrians are already gone a good way on the crossing and let pass the turning cars. When green light comes they are almost on the other side of the street. We also see that the left-turning cars take a little care for cyclists. It is a flexible, somewhat smooth glide past one another. No jostling and honking. I've watched it every day. It really works.

Noteworthy also, cars turning right when green light is for pedestrians (see photo below) Here both look each other. The pedestrians should not simply go across the street despite of green light. Carefully and sometimes letting pass the cars. This is a mutual flexibility with a slightly higher risk. But, I think, more efficient compared with the German behavior waiting for green at an empty crossing. The best for a German in Beijing would be to join the Chinese crossing the street. Then nothing would happene to someone.
The behavior does not change even if a policeman stands at the crossroads.
Knowing this, it is certainly not entirely wrong to infer certain mental characteristics of the Chinese people.
One of the biggest surprises in the first few days was that almost all use electric driven mopeds. Be careful because you don´t hear them approaching. They scurry past that way. Motorcycles are rarely seen. The Beijings have to leave their cars on a certain day in the garage according to the last number on the registration plate in order to regulate the traffic density.

On the right photo, the U5-line just disappears under the ground. In Beijing, many of the streets are lined by shady trees and plants with flowers. Now and then you can relax on a bench watching the activities of busy Chinese.

These two photos above created just outside the center of the city. There are streets where a small store is next to another. Interrupted by very small restaurants with 3-4 tables or counter sales of beverages such as green tea and Chinese hot stove-made dishes. Above all I liked to eat the different varieties of  the so called "biaozi". These are small dumplings with vegetarian or meat content. I miss them very much in Germany. The car plays a major role in the wishes of the Chinese. So I've seen in a satellite city a brand new VW Passat in front of a shabby dwelling, which the family  has washed almost lovingly. For them it was an achievement in an emerging society that I can well understand. Nevertheless, I had the feeling that the more or less great wealth is not so presented, as I have experienced on Spain's coasts. The other photo shows new tricycles with electric drive, often used by older people for two passangers and shopping trips.
As I wrote, as a foreigner I never felt the insecurity of an aggression against me by other people. Once the reason is the Chinese mentality, sufficient police men doing their job, the other probably due to the severe penalties.
During my time in China two extreme cases became known through television:
At the beginning of May 2011 I watched one evening the end of a trial where the accused broke down after the verdict and was propped up by two masked policemen. The young about 27 - year-old music student had just been sentenced to death. At first these pictures made ​​me somehow afraid. What happened? He came from a ​​"better" home and traveled in a Chinese provincial city with a big car at night. He  collided with a young cyclist, mother of a young child. He got out of the car and looked after her, lying on the ground, slightly injured. He realized that she was "only" a farmer woman who just wanted to registrate the car number.
The young man went back to the car, took a knife, that had advised him his father to carry and stabbed to death the woman still lying on the ground. Then he went away and introduced himself to the police a few days later because of the high pressure of the police investigation.
This case caused a great outrage in the Chinese population. During my stay in Beijing he was executed by a lethal injection. I saw his image later several days on the front page of a magazine.
The second case, a traffic accident, ended with a verdict of life imprisonment for a young man. Again and again the Chinese television showed pictures of the camera at an intersection. A car approaching at high speed from behind a intersection where several cars had stopped. The young man, under hashish drugs, crashed into a small car and pushed it on a passing bus. Two small children and the father died, the mother survived seriously injured.

Beijing has a neighborhood that calls itself science and technology city. Here is also located Microsoft China. Huge, super modern buildings, in which each morning go thousands of young computer scientists, engineers and programmers for working. I was in such a building. Very fine, even the washrooms. Many employees sat in rows in front of their computers. Not 10 or 20, but 150, 200. In these buildings works a driving force of China.

With this beautiful bed of roses I would like to end my tour through Beijing. Everyone should make up his own minds. Of course you can always find bad situations when searching specifically for them. The focus on the constant repetition of negative things impresses then the people into a particular image that does not correspond to the reality. As a former GDR citizen, I am particularly sensitive in terms of that kind of propaganda. 
Where are now the dead fishs on my photos, careworn people with breathing masks, the giant traffic jams? People want only one thing: learn, work, achieving a good life. In Policy, hardly anyone is interested in. I was never asked about it.
Once in a satellite town I saw a dirty river. Of course, this giant nation has still much to do like many others. But what they have done in a relatively short time is staggering. With a speed that seemed to be impossible before. Respect and recognition.
I envy no one and am grateful that I had such an opportunity to get to know this city using the oportunity. My conclusion is that many people here  are in a false sense of security regarding the future - till the wake up.

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