Modernization Theory China

Since the founding of the PRC, Beijing has become the country’s political and cultural center and has experienced many drastic changes. In the spirit of the revolution, many of the city’s prominent monuments went the way of the city’s walls and were pulled down in the late’50s and’60s. By the late’60s, Beijing was awash with the many political currents of the Cultural Revolution. At the height of this highly charged period, a trip to Tiananmen Square became a requisite pilgrimage for thousands of zealous young Red Guards who journeyed to Beijing from the farthermost reaches of China as a demonstration of their revolutionary ardor and commitment to the cult of Mao.

Political struggles, public purges and mass campaigns rent society for a full decade before popular outrage was vented at what was to become known as the Tiananmen Incident. On 5 April 1976, 100,000 people gathered at Tiananmen Square to protest the removal of memorial wreaths which had been laid at the Monument to the People’s Heroes as a tribute to the late Zhou Enlai. This public mourning for the moderate premier is now seen as a turning point in the political tide, a clear denunciation of the last years of Mao’s rule and of Jiang Qing, his widow. Within six months, Mao Zedong had died, and subsequently, the ‘Gang of Four’ and the political structure of the Cultural Revolution were dismantled.

With Deng Xiaoping as its new leader, China embarked on a programme of adapting Maoist thought through a reform movement known as the ‘Four Modernizations’-of agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defence. The result of China’s opening to the outside world has been a marked increase of cultural exchanges, joint-venture projects and direct investment from a multitude of foreign sources. International-style hotels and office high-rises now line major thoroughfares. Private enterprise markets are commonplace. The affluence of the middle class Chinese is apparent as more and more families purchase computers, cars and their own apartments.

But with this reform, China has inevitably experienced pangs of growth. Breaking the ‘iron rice-bowl’ has meant that employment is no longer guaranteed, and so the voices of the discontented and dispossessed have become louder. China today also boasts a huge, nomadic army of 120 million rural employment-seekers who inundate the large cities.

The upside of all of this is the gradual resurgence of a commodity economy geared more or less to consumer demand. Tourists and local residents alike have benefited from a broadening of the service economy to include private taxis, restaurants, guest houses and travel services, although letting out the reins in this regard has in some cases led several years later to the imposition of strict regulations which have finally brought a sense of order to these small scale enterprises.

An upsurge in domestic tourism has also changed the face of the city. The most popular tourist spots are crowded with sightseers from every corner of China. So successful has been the campaign to encourage Chinese people to travel that the railways report running at 140 percent of capacity, and tourist hot spots like the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven are restricting access to certain centuries-old flights of steps and marble pedestals because they are beginning to be chafed away by vast numbers of well-shod feet, some wearing high heels and steel taps. The market economy, coupled with the necessity of reducing domestic tourist deluges to the main sites, struck in April 1994. Sharp gate ticket hikes were announced, asking local Chinese for tens of yuan, rather than just the few mao or kuai of the socialist days.

On the other hand, cultural sites formerly closed to the public are being rehabilitated; one effect of which is to reduce the pressure on the most popular destinations. To satisfy those domestic tourists who cannot globetrot, a World Park was opened in Spring 1994 at Fengtai, in the south of the capital. Crowds flock to seethe scaled-down replicas of the Wonders of the World, and famous Chinese sights.

Even so, while the skyline of Beijing is being changed out of recognition by skyscrapers, swaths of the city laced with hutongs and courtyard houses are being preserved in the traditional manner. New Beijing and Old Peking will continue to mature hand in hand, as China progresses further into the 21st century and its people face fresh challenges.

Leave Us Your Message

  • Please fill in the relevant information and click the "Submit" button. Your private tour operator will get back to you by email within 24 hours. For urgent booking, please call us at +86-10-85893819, or mobile phone +86-13910972927.