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China Revisited

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Xizhimen

 

I recently had the chance to go back to Beijing, where six years ago I spent almost a year photographing. The project that came out of that year was about Beijing’s rapid growth. I arrived in Beijing at the end of the 2008 Olympic Games. At the time the city was in a dramatic flux with many new buildings being erected for the Games. The impetus to renovate and reimagine Beijing as a modern global city meant that large swathes of the urban landscape remained under construction for the duration of my stay. At the same time there was a global obsession with China, that brought with it a very vibrant expat community. The Games had served as a kind of coming out party for China, and there was an enormous amount of excitement and optimism for the future, both within and outside the country.

This time around I arrived in Beijing a week before the APEC summit. One of the biggest contrasts was the sheer amount of air pollution this time around. As China prepared for the Olympic Games much of the industry surrounding Beijing was shut down or relocated to present a clean city to the world. By the time I left, the pollution levels had started to creep back up, but nowhere near where it was this time around. Days were gray with a yellowish cast, and the use of face masks was fairly widespread. However, by the end of the week, just like before the Games, the air started to clear up as factories closed down for the APEC summit.

Overall much has changed, and although construction cranes are not as ubiquitous as they once were, the city is still going through a renewal process. However, it no longer feels as vertiginous as it once did. I also saw this reflected in the people I met, both expats and Chinese.  Unbridled optimism was substituted with a more cautious pragmatism about China’s future.

Here is a short term project I shot during my week in Beijing. I tried to keep the point of views as close to the originals as possible to try and see how these places had changed. I was surprised by how much some places changed and how much others remained the same. Beyond all, things looked more lived in and somewhat more organized, but a lot of the sheen of newness was gone. You can see the rest of the original pictures here.

 

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This area in the northern suburbs of Beijing (立水桥) looked pretty much the same, albeit a bit more lived. The one big change was a row of shops (on the bottom left of the picture) that sprung up next to the subway station.

This area in the northern suburbs of Beijing (立水桥) looked pretty much the same, albeit a bit more lived. The one big change was a row of shops (on the bottom left of the picture) that sprung up next to the subway station.

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One of the big changes that happened in the las six years is the sheer amount of cars on the road. Traffic has become chaotic and quite frustrating during rush hour. Here a broken down car was stranded near Sanyuanqiao (三元桥).

One of the big changes that happened in the las six years is the sheer amount of cars on the road. Traffic has become chaotic and quite frustrating during rush hour. Here a broken down car was stranded near Sanyuanqiao (三元桥).

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Although bicycles are still everywhere, more and more electric bikes and motorcycles have cropped up.

Although bicycles are still everywhere, more and more electric bikes and motorcycles have cropped up.

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Underpass beneath the Fourth Ring Road where bicycles and motorcycles navigate alongside automobiles.

Underpass beneath the Fourth Ring Road where bicycles and motorcycles navigate alongside automobiles.

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Updated graffiti in Zhichunlu (知春路) station

Updated graffiti in Zhichunlu (知春路) station

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Sanlitun (三里屯) village, an outdoor mall has gone through some changes and gotten quite a bit busier.

Sanlitun (三里屯) village, an outdoor mall has gone through some changes and gotten quite a bit busier.

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This intersection of Zhongguancun road (中关村大街) and Zhichun road (知春路) was a hectic intersection. In response to that, traffic wardens have been station at each corner to prevent pedestrians and cars from crossing out of turn.

This intersection of Zhongguancun road (中关村大街) and Zhichun road (知春路) was a hectic intersection. In response to that, traffic wardens have been station at each corner to prevent pedestrians and cars from crossing out of turn.

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Tiananmen (天安门)

Tiananmen (天安门)

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High rise apartment buildings in East Beijing.

High rise apartment buildings in East Beijing.

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Bicycle parking outside of Wudaoko (五道口) station.

Bicycle parking outside of Wudaoko (五道口) station.

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Tonghue river (通惠河) south of Guomao (国贸).

Tonghue river (通惠河) south of Guomao (国贸).

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Little change has happened in Guomao (国贸) in six years.

Little change has happened in Guomao (国贸) in six years.

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In contrast this area was under heavy construction six years ago. This is the south west corner of Tiananmen (天安门) square.

In contrast this area was under heavy construction six years ago. This is the south west corner of Tiananmen (天安门) square.

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Six years ago this same lot was under construction for the buildings behind the one being constructed today.

Six years ago this same lot was under construction for the buildings behind the one being constructed today.

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Missed the lotus season at the lake in Zizhuyuan Park (紫竹院公园).

Missed the lotus season at the lake in Zizhuyuan Park (紫竹院公园).

 

 

 

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