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What You Need To Know

Beijing  is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and the world’s third most populous city proper. It is also one of the world’s most populous capital cities. The city, located in northern China, is governed as a direct-controlled municipality under the national government with 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts. Beijing Municipality is surrounded by Hebei Province with the exception of neighbouring Tianjin Municipality to the southeast; together the three divisions form the Jingjinji metropolitan region and the national capital region of China. A city combining both modern and traditional architecture, Beijing is an ever-changing mega city rich in history but also truly modern, exemplified in its extraordinary global influence in politics, business & economy, education, history, culture, language, music, sporting, architecture, civilization, fashion, art, entertainment, innovation and technology. Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation’s political, cultural, and educational centre. It is home to the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies, and is a major hub for the national highway, expressway, railway, and high-speed rail networks. The Beijing Capital International Airport has been the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic since 2010, and, as of 2016, the city’s subway network is the busiest and second longest in the world, after Shanghai’s subway system. The city’s history dates back three millennia. As the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political centre of the country for much of the past eight centuries. With mountains surrounding the inland city on three sides, in addition to the old inner and outer city walls, Beijing was strategically poised and developed to be the residence of the emperor and thus was the perfect location for the imperial capital. Beijing was the largest city in the world by population for much of the second millennium A.D. The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks, gardens, tombs, walls and gates, and its art treasures and universities have made it a centre of culture and art in China. Encyclopædia Britannica notes that “few cities in the world have served for so long as the political headquarters and cultural centre of an area as immense as China.” Beijing has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, as well as parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal, all popular locations for tourism. siheyuans, the city’s traditional housing style, and hutongs, the narrow alleys between siheyuans, are common in urban Beijing and are also major tourist attractions. The city hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will make it the first city to ever host both events. Many of Beijing’s 91 universities consistently rank among the best in China, of which Peking University and Tsinghua University are ranked in the top 60 universities in the world. In 2015, 52 companies of the Fortune Global 500 company headquarters were located in Beijing, more than any other city in the world, including state-owned enterprises State Grid, China National Petroleum, and Sinopec Group, ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively. Beijing CBD is quickly becoming the center for Beijing’s economic expansion, rapid modernization, and radically changing skyline, with the ongoing or recently completed construction of multiple skyscrapers. Beijing’s Zhongguancun area is also known as China’s Silicon Valley, China’s center of innovation and technology entrepreneurship. According to the 2016 InterNations Expat Insider Survey, Beijing ranked first in Asia in the subcategory “Personal Finance Index,” a measure of expats’ salaries versus cost of living in the city. Expats live primarily in the east, in urban districts such as Dongcheng and Chaoyang, or in suburban districts such as Shunyi.

Area: 16,411 km²

Population: Estimate 21.7 million

Currency

  • Renminbi, In English you can refer to the Chinese dollar. In Chinese it has 3 common names and 2 symbols in use: Renminbi 人民币 means People’s Currency and is abbreviated RMB (Renminbi). Yuan 元 means Dollar and is abbreviated CNY (Chinese Yuan).

Culture

People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. This speech is the basis for putonghua, the standard spoken language used in mainland China and Taiwan, and one of the four official languages of Singapore. Rural areas of Beijing Municipality have their own dialects akin to those of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing Municipality. Beijing or Peking opera (京剧, Jīngjù) is a traditional form of Chinese theatre well known throughout the nation. Commonly lauded as one of the highest achievements of Chinese culture, Beijing opera is performed through a combination of song, spoken dialogue, and codified action sequences involving gestures, movement, fighting and acrobatics. Much of Beijing opera is carried out in an archaic stage dialect quite different from Modern Standard Chinese and from the modern Beijing dialect. Beijing cuisine is the local style of cooking. Peking Roast Duck is perhaps the best known dish. Fuling Jiabing, a traditional Beijing snack food, is a pancake (bing) resembling a flat disk with a filling made from fu ling, a fungus used in traditional Chinese medicine. Teahouses are common in Beijing. The cloisonné (or Jingtailan, literally “Blue of Jingtai”) metalworking technique and tradition is a Beijing art speciality, and is one of the most revered traditional crafts in China. Cloisonné making requires elaborate and complicated processes which include base-hammering, copper-strip inlay, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel-firing, surface polishing and gilding. Beijing’s lacquerware is also well known for its sophisticated and intrinsic patterns and images carved into its surface, and the various decoration techniques of lacquer include “carved lacquer” and “engraved gold”. Younger residents of Beijing have become more attracted to the nightlife, which has flourished in recent decades, breaking prior cultural traditions that had practically restricted it to the upper class.

Defense and aerospace

Chinese President Xi Jinping and a military honour guard welcomes South Korean president Park Geun-hye in June 2013. The command headquarters of China’s military forces are based in Beijing. The Central Military Commission, the political organ in charge of the military, is housed inside the Ministry of National Defense, located next to the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in western Beijing. The Second Artillery Corps, which controls the country’s strategic missile and nuclear weapons, has its command in Qinghe, Haidian District. The headquarters of the Beijing Military Region, one of seven nationally, is based further west in Gaojing. The Beijing Military Region oversees the Beijing Garrisons as well as the 27th, 38th and 65th Armies, which are based in Hebei. Military institutions in Beijing also include academies and thinktanks such as the PLA National Defence University and Academy of Military Science, military hospitals such as the 301, 307 and the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and army-affiliated cultural entities such as the 1 August Film Studios and the PLA Song and Dance Troupe. The China National Space Administration, which oversees country’s space program, and several space-related state owned companies such as CASTC and CASIC are all based in Beijing. The Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, in Haidian District tracks the country’s manned and unmanned flight and other space exploration initiatives.

Economy

Beijing’s economy ranks among the most developed and prosperous in China. In 2013, the municipality’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) was CN¥1.95 trillion (US$314 billion), about 3.43% of the country’s total output, and ranked 13th among province-level administrative units. Per capita GDP, at CN¥93,213 (US$15,051) in nominal terms and Int$21,948 at purchasing power parity, was 2.2 times the national average and ranked second among province-level administrative units. The economy tripled in size from 2004 to 2012, and grew at an annual rate of 7.7% in 2013. Due to the concentration of state owned enterprises in the national capital, Beijing in 2013 had more Fortune Global 500 Company headquarters than any other city in the world.

Health systems

Healthcare in China consists of both public and private medical institutions and insurance programs. About 95% of the population has at least basic health insurance coverage. Despite this, public health insurance generally only covers about half of medical costs, with the proportion lower for serious or chronic illnesses. Under the “Healthy China 2020” initiative, China is currently undertaking an effort to cut healthcare costs, and the government requires that insurance will cover 70% of costs by 2017. The Chinese government is working on providing affordable basic healthcare to all residents by 2020. China has also become a major market for health-related multinational companies. Companies such as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, and Merck entered the Chinese market and have experienced explosive growth. China has also become a growing hub for health care research and development. The above applies to Mainland China. Taiwan and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau maintain their own separate universal healthcare systems.

Judiciary and procuracy

The judicial system in Beijing consists of the Supreme People’s Court, the highest court in the country, the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court, the high people’s court of the municipality, three intermediate people’s courts, one intermediate railway transport court, 14 basic people’s court (one for each of the municipality’s districts and counties), and one basic railway transport court. The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Shijingshan oversees the basic courts of Haidian, Shijingshan, Mentougou, Changping and Yanqing. The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court in Fengtai oversees the basic courts of Dongcheng, Xicheng, Fengtai, Fangshan and Daxing. The Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People’s Court in Laiguangying, is the newest of the three intermediate people’s courts and opened on 21 August 2013. It oversees the district courts of Chaoyang, Tongzhou, Shunyi, Huairou, Pinggu and Miyun. Each court in Beijing has a corresponding people’s procuratorate.

Language

The official language is Mandarin Chinese, bases on the dialect of the ethnic group the Han, originally from the North. This language is based on a Mandarin variation spoken during the Manchu dinasty in Beijing. Later, this language was adopted as official langiage for the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, and it is one of th efour official languages in Singapore. It is also one of the six official languages at the United Nations.

Nature and wildlife

Beijing Municipality has 20 nature reserves that have a total area of 1,339.7 km2 (517.3 sq mi). The mountains to the west and north of the city are home to a number of protected wildlife species including leopard, leopard cat, wolf, red fox, wild boar, masked palm civet, raccoon dog, hog badger, Siberian weasel, Amur hedgehog, roe deer, and mandarin rat snake. The Beijing Aquatic Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center protects the Chinese giant salamander, Amur stickleback and mandarin duck on the Huaijiu and Huaisha Rivers in Huairou District. The Beijing Milu Park south of the city is home to one of the largest herds of Père David’s deer, now extinct in the wild. The Beijing barbastelle, a species of vesper bat discovered in caves of Fangshan District in 2001 and identified as a distinct species in 2007, is endemic to Beijing. The mountains of Fangshan are also habitat for the more common Beijing mouse-eared bat, large myotis, greater horseshoe bat and Rickett’s big-footed bat. Each year, Beijing hosts 200-300 species of migratory birds including the common crane, black-headed gull, swan, mallard, common cuckoo and the endangered yellow-breasted bunting. In May 2016, Common cuckoos nesting in the wetlands of Cuihu (Haidian), Hanshiqiao (Shunyi), Yeyahu (Yanqing) were tagged and have been traced to far as India, Kenya and Mozambique. In the fall of 2016, the Beijing Forest Police undertook a month-long campaign to crack down on illegal hunting and trapping of migratory birds for sale in local bird markets. Over 1,000 rescued birds of protected species including streptopelia, Eurasian siskin, crested myna, coal tit and great tit were handed to the Beijing Wildlife Protection and Rescue Center for repatriation to the wild. The city flowers are the Chinese rose and chrysanthemum.  The city trees are the Chinese arborvitae, an evergreen in the cypress family and the Pagoda Tree, also called the Chinese scholar tree, a deciduous tree of the Fabaceae family. The oldest scholar tree in the city was planted in what is now Beihai Park during the Tang Dynasty, 1,300 years ago.

Politics and government

Municipal government is regulated by the local Communist Party of China (CPC), led by the Beijing CPC Secretary (Chinese: 北京市委书记). The local CPC issues administrative orders, collects taxes, manages the economy, and directs a standing committee of the Municipal People’s Congress in making policy decisions and overseeing the local government. Government officials include the mayor (Chinese: 市长) and vice-mayor. Numerous bureaus focus on law, public security, and other affairs. Additionally, as the capital of China, Beijing houses all of the important national governmental and political institutions, including the National People’s Congress.

Religion

The religious heritage of Beijing is rich and diverse as Chinese folk religion, Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity all have significant historical presence in the city. As the national capital, the city also hosts the State Administration for Religious Affairs and various state-sponsored institutions of the leading religions. In recent decades, foreign residents have brought other religions to the city. According to Wang Zhiyun of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2010 there were 2.2 million Buddhists in the city, equal to 11.2% of the total population. According to the Chinese General Social Survey of 2009, Christians constitute 0.78% of the city’s population. According to a 2010 survey, Muslims constitute 1.76%of the population of Beijing.

Republic of China

The fomenters of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 sought to replace Qing rule with a republic and leaders like Sun Yat-sen originally intended to return the capital to Nanjing. After the Qing general Yuan Shikai forced the abdication of the last Qing emperor and ensured the success of the revolution, the revolutionaries accepted him as president of the new Republic of China. Yuan maintained his capital at Beijing and quickly consolidated power, declaring himself emperor in 1915. His death less than a year later left China under the control of the warlords commanding the regional armies. Following the success of the Nationalists’ Northern Expedition, the capital was formally removed to Nanjing in 1928. On 28 June the same year, Beijing’s name was returned to Beiping (written at the time as “Peiping”).During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937 and was made the seat of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, a puppet state that ruled the ethnic-Chinese portions of Japanese-occupied northern China. This government was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei government based in Nanjing.

Transport

Beijing is an important transport hub in North China with five ring roads, nine expressways, eleven National Highways, nine conventional railways, and two high-speed railways converging on the city.

Weather

Beijing has a monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterised by higher humidity in the summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and colder, windier, drier winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone. Spring can bear witness to sandstorms blowing in from the Gobi Desert across the Mongolian steppe, accompanied by rapidly warming, but generally dry, conditions. Autumn, like spring, is a season of transition and minimal precipitation. The monthly daily average temperature in January is −3.7 °C (25.3 °F), while in July it is 26.2 °C (79.2 °F). Precipitation averages around 570 mm (22 in) annually, with close to three-fourths of that total falling from June to August. With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 47% in July to 65% in January and February, the city receives 2,671 hours of bright sunshine annually. Extremes since 1951 have ranged from −27.4 °C (−17.3 °F) on 22 February 1966 to 41.9 °C (107.4 °F) on 24 July 1999 (unofficial record of 42.6 °C (108.7 °F) was set on 15 June 1942).