Beijing (1950s-1960s) / How Beijing’s planning was pushed to this state–another heavy Soviet influence

Joseph Stalin © 2013, Joe,  Evil Men In History
Joseph Stalin © 2013, Joe, Evil Men In History
a model showing the streets and palace of the old Beijing © 2012 LilOrtiz
a model showing the streets and palace of the old Beijing © 2012 LilOrtiz

In December 1949’s Beijing City Planning Conference a group of Soviet architects and urban planner brought their idea to develop the new China’s capital. This proposal was called “The Plan of Beijing’s Future Development” and suggested that “Beijing should be built not only the centre of culture, art and politics, but also the centre of industry. There is little industry existing in Beijing now and the percentage of workers is only 4% of the total Beijing population. In Moscow, the worker class has occupied more than 25% of the total population. Therefore, Beijing is not a city of worker class by far. Most urban population is not workers, but businessmen and exploiters. The city of Beijing should be re-organized.” (The Editing Committee of the History of Beijing Construction, 1995). The Soviet architects also mentioned central squares were of utmost importance in Beijing’s future planning because once the squares were set, all the main streets would fall into places. They proposed to have the

square in front of TianAnmen and criticised on building another centre outside the old Beijing as the architects just wanted Beijing to plan exactly like what they did to Moscow–with new political buildings replacing the old city.

The Soviet architects denied the value of the old buildings and that important part of history marked in the city. They thought of Beijing as a second Moscow and didn’t give much thought to consider Beijing was indeed something completely different from their Soviet capital. Stalin even mentioned that “preserving an old city was bourgeois’ unpractical fantasy“.

Eventually the Soviet proposals were approved, partly because Mao wanted to stay in Beijing as he couldn’t bear previous Chinese emperors could live in this treasurable anicent city while he couldn’t. Liang Sicheng and Chen Zhanxiang’s effort to promote building a new Beijing next to old Beijing in suburb area was then in vain.

3 Comments on “Beijing (1950s-1960s) / How Beijing’s planning was pushed to this state–another heavy Soviet influence

  1. Beijing is transformed and re-planed according to Soviet’s vision, that the model of city should set for economy and efficiency as its primary concern. It is sad that so many historical relics had been restored, accompanied with part of culture lost, the phenomenon is somehow inevitable, as with the ambition of fastest development possible, the city form with its transportation network should have no choice but being rewritten to accommodate new infrastructure and mobility, though there might be more considerate thoughts and decisions could be make to protect the cultural spirit of capital city.

  2. It is interesting to know that the Soviet architects suggested building squares in Beijing. Public squares were considered as symbol of civic right in a democratic city. However, in the eye of the communist, the central squares were in fact the symbol of power of state, where all streets should be built along its axis.

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