2011年9月4日 星期日

Beijing: the most liveable city in China, for whom?

為誰辛苦為誰忙: Beijing: the most liveable city in China, for whom?

Beijing: the most liveable city in China, for whom?
英國《金融時報》 席佳琳 報導

It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. The Economist Intelligence Unit's latest ranking has named Beijing the most liveable city in China.

這本來會是一件很可笑的事情,要不是因為它這麼可悲的話​​。 《經濟學人智庫》(EIU)在其發布的最新排名中,將北京評為中國內地最宜居城市。

Yes, that's right – the Chinese capital which, when the news came out on Wednesday, was suffocating under a dark grey blanket of smog that hadn't lifted for days and which has been covering it most of this summer.


Of course it always depends on what you measure. Even Beijing's notorious air quality can be classified as “fine” by the municipal government on a day when the skies are a sickly white and you have difficulty breathing. On such a day, the US Embassy often has much higher readings (including the notorious 'Crazy Bad' reading) because its equipment measures much finer particles.

當然,這總是取決於你考量的內容。儘管北京的空氣質量臭名遠揚,但是哪怕這天天空慘白、人們呼吸困難,北京市政府也可能將空氣質量歸類為“良好”。在這樣的天氣,美國大使館通常給出的空氣質量指標要糟糕得多(包括著名的“瘋狂的糟”(Crazy Bad)),因為其設備測量的顆粒更加精細。

According to the EIU, the cities are ranked by factors including stability, the environment, healthcare, culture, infrastructure and education. It is certainly true that Beijing has better healthcare and education than most other Chinese cities, and a richer cultural offering.


But this is the city where millions of drivers suffer in perennial traffic jams everyday. ​​Where the cost of housing has soared to levels that the millions of workers that keep Beijing running can only afford a bed in a basement or a room in a village two hours from their workplace.


Perhaps more than any other city in China, the capital is also a place where only a minority of residents enjoy full economic and social rights. To prevent the traffic from breaking down completely, the government heavily restricted the right to buy cars last year. To rein in galloping property prices, authorities also heavily restricted the right to buy houses earlier this year. To limit migration, the government is forcing thousands of children into separation from their parents – during the summer holidays, it razed 30 schools for migrant worker children, who had no option but to return to their native villages.


The compilers of the index must have noticed the description by Ai Weiwei, China's most prominent artist, of Beijing as a “constant nightmare” just days ago. In a piece for Newsweek, Mr Ai, an outspoken critic of the government who disappeared into months of detention earlier this year, described the capital as a violent city without any trust, a place run by armies of migrant workers, whom he calls Beijing's slaves, for a class of newly-rich.


When that critique appeared, the ranking was probably long finished. Native Beijingers, however, are making the best of the situation. Most of them have a healthy dose of national and local pride.


But as the news of the EIU ranking makes the rounds, their equally healthy dose of raw humour is gaining the upper hand. The capital's new title is met with sarcasm in the blogosphere and in the streets. “Most livable city for millionaires,” said Jin Hong, a taxi driver.