Beijing's growing pains mirror global population boom

Mon Oct 24, 2011 7:35am EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - Fourteen years after Beijing's planned satellite city of Tongzhou rose from a small town with many scattered fields, it still lacks decent schools, hospitals and entertainment complexes that residents need to make it feel like home.

Few of the people for whom Tongzhou was built -- residents in overcrowded downtown Beijing -- live there.

Instead, thousands of young, middle-class and blue-collar migrants from poorer parts of China have moved in, contending with the lack of amenities and the daily jam of cars on the highway into Beijing, which now has a population nearly that of Australia's.

Far from being an easy fix to housing Beijing's soaring population, Tongzhou and other satellite hubs in the capital have created new headaches for planners.

"Everyone who has moved here from inner Beijing regrets it," said a 52-year-old man surnamed Wang who has lived in the Tongzhou area all his life.

"People don't have faith in the education and medical services here, nor does the area have enough businesses," he said. "They can't develop real careers in Tongzhou, so eight out of 10 still work downtown."

Wang's complaints underscore the plight of Beijing city planners and counterparts around the country, where China's breakneck urbanization leads a world set to reach 7 billion people by the end of the month, according to United Nations estimates, and 9 billion by 2050.

Beijing is among the world's most populous cities, though population rankings vary widely. It has swelled by about 10 million people in the past decade, a trend mirrored worldwide, particularly in developing nations.   Continued...

<p>A passenger sleeps in the crowded waiting room at West Railway Station in Beijing in this January 29, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files</p>