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Building big buildings. And knocking others down.
February 27, 2008 5:59 AM   Subscribe

The new terminal at Beijing airport is big. No, wait, I mean it's REALLY BIG. That is, REALLY FUCKING BIG. And there's plenty of other massive construction projects underway in Beijing, many designed by European architects. Like they say, though, if you wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs. And well, they seem to be doing a better job of that than these guys.

And hey, what the hell, while we're at it: demolition montage.
posted by flapjax at midnite (56 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's reallly weird is how if you close your eyes the newsreader-lady sounds just like Amy Winehouse.
posted by Dizzy at 6:06 AM on February 27, 2008


yt/dw
posted by signal at 6:07 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was about to say something witty about the newsreaders weird accent and intonation, actually. It makes it almost impossible to focus on what she is saying. Weird.

I liked the fact that the subtle "foreigners come into our airports arse" inference, too.
posted by Brockles at 6:09 AM on February 27, 2008


note to self - do not change your mind about sentence structure halfway through without editing or proof reading. Dumb arse
posted by Brockles at 6:09 AM on February 27, 2008


Brockles---
Your accent is so heavy I am having a hard time understanding what yer saying.
Take a class or something!
posted by Dizzy at 6:13 AM on February 27, 2008


Hopefully they designed it to have wifi everywhere and no accessible power outlets anywhere, like all the other airports on the planet.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:16 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nice to see a return to the kind of geomantic/magical thinking that once gave China some of the most pleasing architecture in the world; if only it didn't have to be this.
Not so nice to hear about the various mightily disgruntled householders who've been compulsorily relocated for the various Olympic projects (though I confess to have reached fatigue on the never-ending crescendo of the interminable run-up some months ago, so I paid no attention to this particular project).
posted by Abiezer at 6:18 AM on February 27, 2008


no accessible power outlets anywhere

That drives me up the wall, too. Even the brand new ones usually require you to crawl under chairs among all the gum and crap or sit on the floor by a pillar. I get a little irate paying $7 for an hour to then use 20 minutes of wifi that takes 2 to register for and get a numb arse in the process.

Bah! Bah, I say!
posted by Brockles at 6:19 AM on February 27, 2008


Bah! Bah, I say!

Have you any wool?

...the never-ending crescendo of the interminable run-up...

I hear you. It's such a drag to be in an Upcoming Olympics Zone. I hate the frikkin' Olympics.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:22 AM on February 27, 2008


Then you might also enjoy some of the more forthright local responses to the 2012 London games developments in this Flickr pool , flapjax.
posted by Abiezer at 6:33 AM on February 27, 2008


I was about to say something witty about the newsreaders weird accent and intonation, actually. It makes it almost impossible to focus on what she is saying. Weird.

It sounds like a pretty standard British accent to me, with a hint of a Chinese on a few words.
posted by delmoi at 6:33 AM on February 27, 2008


I sure hope they have one frickin' fast people mover to get you from one end to the other,

Also, I'm curious about that newsreader's accent as well. I've watched CCTV occasionally, and accents vary form English to American to something in between.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:34 AM on February 27, 2008


Wow! If only the students who died in 1989 could have seen stuff like this! They might not have protested. The whole glance at China this year is going to be nauseating in light of recent history for me. All this stuff was designed without any real laws and the resources were allocated without any real representation of the people.

Coming from a people who got pissed our tea was taxed without representation, I'm surprised at how easily and readily we're embracing China this year. Not only American corporations or American movie directors (until recently), like this guy who makes great movies talking about how it is wrong to kill people for their beliefs, but yet supports governments that do and makes movies for them.

Even that archtiect, true man, you gotta great building, but does it not say something about you that you accepted the Chinese government as your funding source? Are the best and most enduring structures monuments of free societies?

Oh well.....who cares? Their GDP is rising like crazy.
posted by skepticallypleased at 6:35 AM on February 27, 2008


It sounds like a pretty standard British accent to me

Hahaha! Er. Perhaps from the 1930's film world.

It isn't a British accent at all. It is an exaggerated version of "World Service Speak" where it sounds, to me, like she has been trained too hard to portray the (not real) accent accurately at the expense of intonation and clarity. It sounds like considerable effort to maintain for her, to me.

But all that aside, who wants to put bets on whether that luggage sorting deal works?
posted by Brockles at 6:37 AM on February 27, 2008


...who wants to put bets on whether that luggage sorting deal works?

It's going to work perfectly. As long as you don't mind picking up someone else's luggage after your flight.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 AM on February 27, 2008


As long as you don't mind picking up someone else's luggage after your flight.

Yeah. Maybe we should check the claims - "The same number of baggages delivered as were checked in" could be fulfilled easily.

I know that labels are pretty standard across airlines, but being as bags very much aren't, how on earth can they make sure the labels go through the scanner to make it automated? Unless it still gets manually sorted and it is the passage of the bags to the gates that is automated (unlike the little carts they use now). The graphic implies each bag magically gets to the right gate on its own, to which I say "Ptooey!" to chances of above 90% accuracy.
posted by Brockles at 6:43 AM on February 27, 2008


I'm surprised at how easily and readily we're embracing China this year.

Then you need to study your country's history more.
posted by signal at 6:46 AM on February 27, 2008


Coming from a people who got pissed our tea was taxed without representation, I'm surprised at how easily and readily we're embracing China this year. Not only American corporations or American movie directors (until recently), like this guy who makes great movies talking about how it is wrong to kill people for their beliefs, but yet supports governments that do and makes movies for them.

Well, I don't see how you can really criticize him since he did drop the project on moral grounds.
posted by delmoi at 6:47 AM on February 27, 2008


Lord Foster (designer of the airport) was on the radio in Britain the other day pointing out that the entire building process in China took less time than the public inquiry into the fifth terminal at Heathrow. Guess he didn't notice that China is a dictatorship.

I think China's rising GDP should be a worry for the regime, rather than a cause for celebration - once people start getting middle class, they get a lot harder to push around.
posted by athenian at 6:55 AM on February 27, 2008


1.21 gigawatts76 million?! Does she mean "over the course of the Olympics" or could that possibly be a daily figure?
posted by DU at 7:04 AM on February 27, 2008


I'm so worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Beijing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:06 AM on February 27, 2008


Wow! If only the students who died in 1989 could have seen stuff like this! They might not have protested. The whole glance at China this year is going to be nauseating in light of recent history for me. All this stuff was designed without any real laws and the resources were allocated without any real representation of the people.
Yet despite moving in broadly free-thinking circles here in Beijing, I find the games are a genuine source of national pride to many, including people of the generation you mention. After all, there was plenty of patriotism among the 89 students too. There have been some satirical and thoughtful rejections of the whole tub-thumping use that the Beijing games have been put to, but partly because of the tight media control, that's reduced to muttering in the wings. (That Youtube link triggers the firewall immediately)
At the risk of descending into a reductionist nationalist pissing match, a Chinese person could as well say we all came to Atlanta despite your free citizenry continually electing US regimes whose central federal project has been to sustain an eternal war machine outspending all other nations on arms and raining bombs on far-flung villages across the globe. It really is the kind of posturing that will find very few of us on the high ground.
posted by Abiezer at 7:11 AM on February 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


With its broad head and long tail, its vents in the shapes of scales, and its crimson and gold paint, it is said to be a modern representation of both the Chinese dragon and the Forbidden City.

Dragon? Forbidden City? Hell, no - that thing is a banjo!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:20 AM on February 27, 2008


Ah CCTV 9. How I've missed your boring, shitty Stalinesque propaganda. Hour after hour of minor foreign ministers on state visits and interminable special reports on tea agriculture. Because of course this is what English-speaking foreigners want to know about China.

Meanwhile, on CCTV-3 there are incredible acrobats dressed up like PLA soldiers doing very unintentionally gay poses as part of a musical revue, on CCTV-6 there's a hilarious Xena-like show featuring ancient Chinese sages in terrible fake moustaches incinerating each other with CGI lightning bolts, on CCTV-8 there's a pretty cool period drama about the Long March, on CCTV-10 there's a nature show about giant gerbils in Xinjiang with amazing SNAKE-O-VISION special effects, and on CCTV-11 there's a new opera every hour.
posted by xthlc at 7:22 AM on February 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Chinese bloggers get lots of comedy mileage by pointing out that CCTV is usually understood as the dullness of security cameras anywhere else in the world. One of those fitting accidents of nomenclature.
posted by Abiezer at 7:26 AM on February 27, 2008


I'm surprised at how easily and readily we're embracing China this year.

Probably because the alternative would be far worse. Having visited China mysef, the impression it left me is that if the country would become a democracy overnight, the whole place would collapse under its own weight and the human cost would be on a scale like we have never seen before.

While we may not agree with their current system, I think it is in everyones best interest to let China evolve into something that will hopefully be a lot better then it is today. And believe me, China is changing rapidly fast.
posted by Timeless at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


So how do you actually get an accent like that? If you flick through the international versions of various news channels, all you hear is this strange trans-national, monotonous drone. Here in the UK, we can watch CCTV, CNN International, France 24, Russia Today, Al Jazeera English... they all sound like that.
posted by afx237vi at 8:22 AM on February 27, 2008


I think it tells us something about how native speakers hear, or perhaps better focus on, things in accents that learners can't or don't. I thought the idea that it sounded British was odd on first reading but listening again can see how you might think that if you weren't from the UK. And fair play the woman she's made a pretty good fist of bridging a pretty wide linguistic gap.
posted by Abiezer at 8:33 AM on February 27, 2008


So how do you actually get an accent like that?

I'm no expert, but I would guess being taught English/educated by British people. You learn to pronounce things a certain way, and come out with a pseudo-British accent. Which I think is insanely cool, as it means you could possibly choose what accent you want to have just by deciding where to learn English.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2008


My equally ropey if not worse Chinese accent was heavily influenced by the time I spent in Sichuan not long after graduating. When I came to Beijing people found the south-west burr amusing from a foreigner, and friends now joke that my mouth has made it up to Beijing now but my accent is still dragging its heels somewhere round a school for the speech-impaired in Henan.
posted by Abiezer at 8:42 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think China's rising GDP should be a worry for the regime, rather than a cause for celebration - once people start getting middle class, they get a lot harder to push around.

This is nonsense and reveals a thorough misunderstanding of the Chinese 'regime' and the relationship between it and the middle class.
posted by atrazine at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2008


- once people start getting middle class, they get a lot harder to push around.

It seems to me that people with a vested interest in the system are less likely to make waves. Most people will gladly trade civil liberties for economic security.
posted by malocchio at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2008


I'd agree with atrazine and malocchio on the middle classes I think. That was what Jiang Zemin's Three Represents was partly about I think we found out after years of head-scratching, and then the change to Party rules to admit the new entrepreneur class. One of my favourite foreign correspondents used an excellent acid phrase: "China’s rich bourgeois remain a colluder class."
The countervailing argument I've heard that is not without substance is that resistance in cities has come from lawyered-up property holders defending their rights, such as the recent Shanghai maglev extension protests, but I think that speaks more to the urban bias of most foreign coverage.
posted by Abiezer at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2008


For what it's worth, when I was teaching English in Beijing, Chinese employers would tell me how much they liked my accent because I sounded like an American news anchor. What I think is happening here is someone, English as a first language or not, I can't really tell, who is intentionally exaggerating the tone, pronounciation and cadence of a BBC newsreader because that's what her boss wants to hear.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:16 AM on February 27, 2008


I thought this announcer was a total hottie. The accent of newsreader dubbing was perfectly understandable: Hong Kong Chinese, with a lot of London thrown in. And perfectly sexy.

I'm guessing Brockles is an American.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on February 27, 2008


Running low on adjectives this morning?
posted by mecran01 at 9:47 AM on February 27, 2008


That is the big question. Arf.
posted by Abiezer at 9:56 AM on February 27, 2008


From the "Really Fucking Big" link: "It's also made in the likeness of a dragon"

So here is where the Mecha-wars start, huh? Someone hijacks a plane coming out of Beijing and the airport itself rears up and grabs the aircraft, using it's laser eyes to vaporize the hostiles inside. Japan, realizing that they have a giant robot gap, will build a skyscraper in the shape and size of a mountain that chase down and fight giant radioactive monsters.

The US, not quite getting it will build a massive robot that can transform into a huge pistol. Eventually we will realize that this is kind of stupid, as now we have to make an even bigger robot that can pick up and use the first one.
posted by quin at 10:15 AM on February 27, 2008


Beijing airport's new terminal is said to be a modern representation of both the Chinese dragon and the Forbidden City

Dragon? It doesn't look like a dragon, it looks like a syringe. Some heavy symbolism there.
posted by Anything at 10:17 AM on February 27, 2008


The accent of newsreader dubbing was perfectly understandable: Hong Kong Chinese, with a lot of London thrown in. And perfectly sexy.

It wasn't in the slightest bit London. Not at all. And I didn't say it was incomprehensible, it was just bizarre and hard to concentrate on through that bizarreness. I could see it being hot, too, but it sure as hell ain't a typical English accent by any means.

And your guess is way out. I am English.
posted by Brockles at 10:32 AM on February 27, 2008


man has always loved his buildings, but what happens when the buildings say "no more!"
posted by es_de_bah at 11:07 AM on February 27, 2008


Listen -- I'll concede the point. You can't avoid China.

But, let's not go into a democracy is going to ruin the place craziness. It's next door neighbor reproduced like rabbits last century too and it's a lot freer society where at least the corruption is out in the open and can be outed by a free press.

Our China policy is incomprehensible to me anyway. We treat Cuba very differently and we trade extensively to China. Meanwhile, our Army asks for more fighter planes because the only other army that remotely poses a threat to us is well, China?!

And to state the '89 students would have been proud of such building and the Olympic moment is a seriously, seriously, seriously, seriously a deficient thought.

At last, to all people who see a peaceful endgame in China as becomes free....How exactly does that happen? When in history does someone who have power and wealth stop and state you know, here you go unwashed masses, it's yours!?

As malocchio states, scarier is a complacent and happier middle class that's simply excited they can go to nice malls and buy a car so if democracy comes, it comes, if not, oh well......Most informal polling shows that such is the attitude of the Chinese middle class.

Lastly, yes, the USA starts wars but we have the chance to end them as well -- it's called elections.
posted by skepticallypleased at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2008


And to state the '89 students would have been proud of such building and the Olympic moment is a seriously, seriously, seriously, seriously a deficient thought.
skepticallypleased - I'm telling you that I personally know people who were there on the day of the massacre who are well disposed towards Beijing hosting the Olympics. I haven't discussed this big building with them. I do know many who lament the general crassness of Beijing's urban renewal in general, and also can think of others who at the least see it as inevitable.
There were a whole range of currents in the movement at the time and a variety of paths taken by different actors in the years that came afterwards. I am no apologist for the Chinese state; quite the reverse. But it cannot be denied that nationalism is, was and will be a potent force in the shaping of Chinese modernisation. That's hardly a controversial view.
I really wasn't attempting to engage in a nationalist comparison in the war crack (though I do seriously doubt any elected government that attempted to dismantle the US military-industrial complex would last long). My point being, reductionist and trite as what I said about the US may well have sounded to you, that's how a lot of what I hear said about China sounds to me who knows just a little about the country after some years here. It falls on deafer ears still with vast swathes of actual Chinese people.
posted by Abiezer at 12:24 PM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meant to say I agree that the difference between US policy to Cuba and China also strikes me as being entirely pragmatic despite the rhetoric.
posted by Abiezer at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2008


At last, to all people who see a peaceful endgame in China as becomes free....How exactly does that happen? When in history does someone who have power and wealth stop and state you know, here you go unwashed masses, it's yours!?

As malocchio states, scarier is a complacent and happier middle class that's simply excited they can go to nice malls and buy a car so if democracy comes, it comes, if not, oh well......Most informal polling shows that such is the attitude of the Chinese middle class.


Why are you so convinced that everyone in the world wants democracy?
And why is the complacent and happy middle class scary?

I'll tell you what is happening now and will continue to happen. The Chinese middle class will continue to gain more say and stake in the apparatus of the state (where do you think all those mid-level bureaucrats come from?).
Take note of how Hong Kong's democracy works: half of the Legislative Assembly seats are reserved for the representatives of Professional organisations and other Functional Constituencies.

If universal suffrage democracy of the kind theoretically found in the United States and Western Europe ever comes to China then it will come the way it came to the United Kingdom1, through a slow accretion of rights and reforms, not through a revolution.


1) In the United Kingdom the Accession Council which meets to proclaim the next monarch on the death of the incumbent includes the Aldermen of the City of London (the old city, aka the 'square mile') who are elected by the businesses located there.
posted by atrazine at 1:22 PM on February 27, 2008


Cool-ass demolition videos! Flapjax, you are awesome, and that's one fewer FPP I'll submit MeFi to. As for the airport, yahh, that's purty big, huh.
posted by not_on_display at 1:56 PM on February 27, 2008


You know, Abiezer, I get you. I'm sure the motivations behind the students were a lot more complex than I know from afar. Still, the whole thing -- Olympics, airports, the seizing of land and abode for compensation that is arbitrary and lacks due process in order to build the new China......people take it all is a good and great thing. It seems the only reactions left are: 1. Embrace unequivocally what the government does....since, well, WOW, that GDP. or 2. Be critical of it since you really can't avoid China and at least temper other people's excitement since people who gave their lives for a different course.

Atrazine, I know through Guy Fawkes at least, the British people celebrate the popular uprising against SOMETHING. The transfer of power is never smooth or, rather non-violent. Even Gandhi and MLK who tried to preach differently died for their causes as did many other people.

I can't see it happening under current speech restricitons. You CAN'T EVEN CRITICIZE THE GOVERNMENT in China. Credible reports indicate the only reason another Tiananmen has not happened yet is because the police won't let such a mass gathering even physically occur (except during Olympics pre-game ceremonies of course).

I hope you are right, that the transition is peaceful and simple, but it won't be.
posted by skepticallypleased at 2:13 PM on February 27, 2008


Credible reports indicate the only reason another Tiananmen has not happened yet is because the police won't let such a mass gathering even physically occur

That sounds like a vast overstatement to me. Care to link to these reports?

If you're talking about the years following the 1989 incident, then maybe you're right. But if you're asserting that a protest à la 1989 would happen any minute now if it wasn't for the tight grip of the police state, you might be in for a surprise.

The Tiananmen Square Protests of 2008, what exactly would they protest? I think you'll be disappointed to find that most of Beijing's current students (based on my limited experience, anyhow) are much less pro-democracy than the one's occupying the universities in the 80's. If pro- at all. I guess you could convince some underpaid workers and poor farmers to protest, but chances are their beef would be with local branches of government, and their banners would read "Higher Salaries" and not "More Democracy".
posted by klue at 3:11 PM on February 27, 2008


I appreciate the deep irony of the architect designing a super-efficient, ecologically sustainable AIRPORT.
posted by wilful at 3:21 PM on February 27, 2008


Am I the only one who was amused by the fact that they abbreviate Beijing as "BJ"?
posted by ooga_booga at 3:48 PM on February 27, 2008


Probably. That's how it is commonly abbreviated.

This might interest you.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:13 PM on February 27, 2008


"Welcome to modern day China"¿—Tyra Dempster

Beautiful architecture [wrong country damn it./], does not make a country modern. Please. Facelift, yes. So what¿
Communism stays. Imprisoning and murdering innocent citizens, stays.

Still Life
Up The Yangtze

Why would they demo a perfectly looking stadium¿ Make work project¿ Impress visiting Olympic tourists with a new structure=progress¿
hope not, but I doubt it.

Thanks for the displacement of so many families [16 buildings demo].

I understand this to be a China olympic architecture topic, but it sure begs more background content...yes¿

Can't discuss architecture without politics, though.

That airport¿ Dragon¿ I see a banjo=Deliverance, indeed.
posted by alicesshoe at 6:48 PM on February 27, 2008


I know through Guy Fawkes at least, the British people celebrate the popular uprising against SOMETHING.

Actually they celebrate the failure of his plot. (and historically it was an outlet for anti-catholicism - alongside the burning of Guy Fawkes in effigy, they used to burn effigies of the pope)
posted by atrazine at 8:05 PM on February 27, 2008


I thought half of the people in the 1989 Tiananmen protests were farmers and workers who were being screwed by the new economic reforms and wanted a return to old school Maoist socialism.

It always annoys me when western media links 1989 with democracy, rather than social unrest in general.
posted by yifes at 8:26 PM on February 27, 2008


In the context of Chinese modernization, I think the term democracy is used roughly as a proxy for the general concepts of Western-style liberalism and humanism. In this sense, then, democratization of China takes implicit positive valuation to both western and eastern audiences.

For example, the May Fourth literary movement was predicated in part on a rejection of traditionalism as a hindrance to modernization (wherein the end result, according to such writers as Lu Hsün 魯迅, is the adoption of a philosophy of liberal humanism.) In fact, if we look at some of the most influential voices in contemporary Chinese literature, we often see their own philosophies formed by direct contact with European Renaissance and Enlightenment thought (e.g., Tai Ssu-chieh's 戴思杰 Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise.)
posted by Sangermaine at 9:43 PM on February 27, 2008


...people take it all is a good and great thing. It seems the only reactions left are: 1. Embrace unequivocally what the government does....since, well, WOW, that GDP. or 2. Be critical of it since you really can't avoid China and at least temper other people's excitement since people who gave their lives for a different course.
I hope I've not given you the impression that I think those are the only two options or that I'm much excited by the current development path the central government has mapped out. Recognising a situation for what it is doesn't have to imply approval.
There are any number of people here working for an expansion of rights, public participation, social justice and various other goods, and they keep on in often very difficult and risky circumstances. It's been my view of international solidarity that you're almost always better off identifying progressive elements at a local level and supporting them - critically at times of course if that's needed - rather than offering platitudes or generalities from afar. One of the big drawbacks of that latter strategy is it can be easily dismissed by an appeal to nationalist sentiment or because it is so often ignorant of the realities on the ground.
Further to sangermaine's point about "democracy," like elsewhere it's become an amorphous term meaning something generally good and official discourse is full of references to "China's socialist democracy" as if it were an already extant thing. One of the bigger current academic currents is "New Confucianism" which in my view goes against even much of the self-examination of the May Fourth generation and seeks a return to many of the values of Chinese tradition. In the nature of these things, what is seen as Chinese tradition in this view is quite a distortion, or selective, IMO.
posted by Abiezer at 3:48 AM on February 28, 2008


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