Getting to Know Beijing
The capital of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing is the country’s economic, political, educational, cultural, communication, and international and trade capital. Partially surrounded by the Hebei Province, close to the Tianjin port city, and situated in northern China, Beijing is considered the country’s most significant port of entry and transportation hub.
Among the six ancient cities of China, Beijing has been the heart and soul of society and politics through most of the country’s long and interesting history. As such, it has gathered an enormous wealth of discovery that continues to intrigue and delight travelers from across the globe as they experience the city first-hand and witness its ancient past and amazing modern development. Today, Beijing has fully grown to become one of the world’s most favorite tourist destinations, with more than 4 million international visitors and around 140 million Chinese tourists every year.
Getting Around the City
Before deciding on exploring the city, it is recommended that one prints out the names of the places he would like to see or visit or have someone from your hotel’s staff write them for you as not many of the residents and drivers are well adept with conversational English. Embarking on a tour of the city should not be a problem as the city abounds with several transportation options that one can choose from: the subway or by bicycle, by a taxi or a bus, or by car, just to name a few.
There’s much to do in the city, but one should not miss visiting the Tiananmen Square, which is considered the largest public square in the world. The Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Great Hall of the People, the Forbidden City, the Qianmen Gate, and the Museum of Chinese History surrounds the square. The symbol of the 2008 Olympics, the Bird’s Nest or the National Stadium is a major landmark that should also not be missed. Contemporary architecture can be observed with two other remarkable landmarks in the Chaoyang District: the World Trade Center Tower III and the CCTV.
Locals and tourists alike also love to flock to the city’s parks, temples, and palaces to get a break from the narrow roads and the traffic-jammed boulevards. The Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park was the official venue for the marathon swimming, canoeing, and rowing during the 2008 Olympics. Some of other parks in Beijing include the Beihai Park, the Zhongshan Park, the Ritan Park, and the Chaoyang Park. Home to the Imperial Court during the Qing and Ming dynasties, the Forbidden City is the city’s most important palace. The Lama Temple and the Temple of Heaven should also be included in one’s itinerary when visiting the city.
Food is typically inexpensive in Beijing, and the best way to eat cheap and well in the city is to get into one of the omnipresent restaurants where you will find many residents eating and try out various dishes from their menus. Street food is also delicious and cheap and also a favorite among locals. There’s the famous savory pancake and kebabs grilled on stalls and stands on many Beijing streets. Also, do not miss to taste the city’s roasted duck and try the mutton hotpot. Or if you’re on the hunt for pasta or pizza and other Western or European food, there’s Origus, Tim’s Texas BBQ, and other restaurants in many of the luxury hotels in the city.
For your shopping needs, you should find most of what you need from the most popular markets in the city that include Silk Street, the Hong Qiao Market, and the Xizhimen in Xicheng District. Dashilan and Liulichang in Xuanwu District and Nanluoguoxiang in Qianmen Dajie Pedestrian Street and Dongcheng District are also good alternatives for your shopping needs. Traditional Chinese food shops also abound in the city, including Chongwenmen Food Market, the Tea Street, and Yinhehua Vegetarian.
A Closer Look at the City’s Economy
Accounting for more than 70% of the country’s GDP, Beijing is one of the most developed cities in China and the first post-industrial metropolis in mainland China. Second to Tokyo, it is home to 41 companies listed with Fortune Global 500 and more than a hundred of the biggest companies in the country.
One of the city’s most significant industries is finance, and the year 2007 witnessed the emergence of more than 750 financial institutions in the city. These financial companies generate 128.6 billion RMB of revenue, which makes 11.6% of the entire country’s total financial industry revenue and 13.8% of the country’s GDP, the highest generated revenue among the Chinese cities.
The recent years have witnessed how the city’s automobile and real estate sectors have grown where 2,146,000 cars were registered in 2004 and 301,730,000 sq. ft. of housing real estate were sold in 2005. One will find many shopping centers, regional headquarters, and first-class housing subdivisions in Beijing’s central business district, which is situated on the Guomao area. Pharmaceutical research, computer, and electronics industries are based in “China’s Silicon Valley” or the Zhongguancun area.
Beijing is slowly earning popularity for its innovative businessmen and outstanding startup companies. The city is also known for being a center of less legitimate enterprises such as the production of pirated goods that include DVDs and designer bags and clothing.