Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
In April 2017, the Beijing municipal government enacted a new, three-year urban renewal policy that is aimed to restore and improve the built environment of the 2,435 alleyways located in the historic center of the city. The local implementation, however, has focused on the sealing of doors and windows that led to homes and small businesses for decades. As a result, thousands of businesses that had provided daily services to local residents have shut down, forcing many people to move to other cities. Drawing on archival research and interviews, this article argues that the Beijing municipal government is merely using urban renewal as camouflage for a politically-oriented gentrification project which not only eliminates non-permanent residents, but also deconstructs, as well as reconstructs, “place” at the local level as a means to control social activities and relationships. The result is the creation of a new image of the capital of China, which exhibits the ideas of regularity, singularity, segregation, and authoritarianism.