The charm of old town is still ap­peal­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

I have an ex­er­cise bike in my apart­ment in Bei­jing and ev­ery morn­ing I sit on it, ped­al­ing and sweat­ing away un­til I have burned off 300 calo­ries. It takes about an hour — all that hard work for fewer calo­ries than you’d con­sume by eat­ing a Snick­ers bar.

It’s also quite bor­ing, al­though I do go into a sort of trance af­ter a while when the en­dor­phins start to kick in. I have my bike po­si­tioned in front of a large win­dow and, with the air con­di­tioner blast­ing cold air onto me, I look at what is go­ing on outside. Some­times there might be work­men do­ing re­pairs on the roof of the op­po­site build­ing, or a mag­pie might ap­pear and I’ll hope to see another one for good luck.

But the things I most en­joy

This Day, That Year

Item­fromJuly3,1989,in Chi­naDaily:AChi­nese­cargo shipleft­Shang­hai’sport­for SouthAmer­i­caonJune28. Thi­sis­the­first­timethat Chi­na­ha­sopenedareg­u­lar ocean­ship­pin­groute­tothe re­gion.

Chi­nese shipping com­pa­nies have been ex­pand­ing over­seas net­works amid ris­ing de­mand, driven by the coun­try’s fast eco­nomic growth in the past few decades.

In ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional shipping lines watch­ing when I’m on the bike are the tower cranes on a build­ing site a few blocks away. I see them twist­ing and turn­ing, stretch­ing and lift­ing, and mar­vel at the tech­nol­ogy that keeps them up­right, and the brav­ery of the op­er­a­tors do­ing a job I wouldn’t touch even if my life de­pended on it.

Un­til re­cently, I was cu­ri­ous about what ex­actly they were working on. Then I went on hol­i­day for two weeks and re­turned to find that a new build­ing, al­ready sev­eral sto­ries high, had sud­denly ap­peared. The speed with which it had been built was in­cred­i­ble and it’s still get­ting taller ev­ery day.

Progress in Bei­jing, as with the rest of China, moves at an in­cred­i­ble rate. But is progress the right word for such rapid de­vel­op­ment?

Trav­el­ing around the city, see­ing the gleam­ing high-rises of all shapes and sizes, I of­ten find my­self won­der­ing what the city looked like be­fore all this “progress” be­tween Asia and Africa, and China and South­east Asia, ma­jor lines be­tween Asia and Europe, and Asia and North and South Amer­ica have also opened.

In April, China COSCO Shipping Corp, the coun­try’s largest shipping group, opened a new con­tainer ser­vice con­nect­ing ports in North­ern Europe and in the Mediter­ranean Sea.

It is part of grow­ing in­traEurope trade, which saw an an­nual in­crease of 70 per­cent in the past two years.

COSCO is also ex­pand­ing started hap­pen­ing. Surely there were some beau­ti­ful old tra­di­tional build­ings. Couldn’t they have been saved? Couldn’t Bei­jing have cho­sen to look more like Amsterdam and less like Man­hat­tan?

My home in Eng­land is in a town that was over­looked and neglected for many years. In pre­vi­ous cen­turies, it had thrived be­cause of the wool and tex­tile in­dus­tries and there are some lovely old build­ings. But over the years it de­clined to be­come a rundown place where few peo­ple wanted to live.

Then some­thing amaz­ing hap­pened. By the 1970s, homes had be­come so cheap that hip­pies and strug­gling artists started to snap them up. What had been a small in­dus­trial town be­came a Bo­hemian haven. Such a trendy en­vi­ron­ment then at­tracted the at­ten­tion of yup­pies — teach­ers, lawyers, doc­tors — who started mov­ing in, tidy­ing up the town and boost­ing prop­erty pri- its con­tainer fleet — it plans to add 14 ves­sels at a cost of $1.78 bil­lion in the next two years.

The new ships will take the group’s op­er­a­tional ca­pac­ity to more than 2 mil­lion TEUs, or twenty-foot equiv­a­lent units, by the end of 2018. The group owns more than 46 con­tainer ter­mi­nals across the world, with close to 200 berthing spa­ces.

Last month, COSCO snapped up a 51 per­cent stake in Noa­tum Port, a ces. The small shops and busi­nesses be­gan to thrive.

The newcomers love the old build­ings, the un­spoiled en­vi­ron­ment. If any spec­u­la­tor comes along with a plan for a large de­vel­op­ment — one that in­volves tower cranes, for in­stance — there will very soon be a fierce cam­paign to get the project re­jected.

There must be many ar­eas in China that feel as if they are be­ing by­passed by the modern world — but maybe they should be count­ing their bless­ings. Peo­ple are nat­u­rally more com­fort­able in en­vi­ron­ments cre­ated on a hu­man scale, where na­ture isn’t a dis­tant mem­ory.

There is a lot more to true wealth than a fancy apart­ment in a tower block. So if you live in an old town that seems to have missed out on pros­per­ity, take heart. Con­crete jun­gles aren’t the only route to a bet­ter life.

Con­tact the writer at david@chi­nadaily.com.cn Span­ish con­tainer ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tor, for $228 mil­lion.

The deal ex­tended its ports and ter­mi­nals net­work to the Mediter­ranean re­gion.

The Span­ish com­pany op­er­ates con­tainer ter­mi­nals in the Port of Va­len­cia and the Port of Bil­bao in Spain, a key link in the chain.

XU JINGXING / CHINA DAILY

A man walks past a mu­ral by Chan Ying-fat at Pa­cific Place, one of Hong Kong’s big­gest shop­ping ar­eas, last week.

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