[Datong]City Wall Demolition and Restoration 2: Huge Relocation

As mentioned in the first narrative article, Datong mayor, Geng Yanbo’s city plan was to transform the city into a destination for visitors and captial by rebuilding the ancient city wall, thereby to restore Datong’s rich cultural and historical heritage. But there was the catch that needs to be noticed. More than half a million people because of this city wall perservation project had to be relocated from the inner city wall area to other places without any choice.

Starting from April 2008, the expropriation of housing settlements along the city walls started. For the East city wall , it is the most complete part, and the outer ring was commercial center with most of the buildings being public architecture, so the housing expropriation difficulty level is low. For the South city wall , it is harder to deal with because there were a lot more inhabitants living inside and outisde. [1]

2.1 Confrontation and Desperation 

What’s worse than losing their original houses is that not all of inhabitants can get relocation buildings to stay. For inhabitants living in privately-built shacks,they needed to apply for affordable house/ low-rent housing which they need to wait for 3 years. Most of them don’t even have money for it and also don’t want to wait for that long. For residents living in private house(私产房sichanfang), they got no compensentaion at all as their houses don’t offcially own the property ownership certificates.






(image1:private houses being demolished. Retrived from the documentary: The Chinese Mayor)

Unsurprisingly, the mayor’s grand plan to reconstruct Datong’s old city wall encountered fierce resistance. Citizens expressed confrontation to the government in the street, at demolition sites or online. [2]

2.2 Concession 

Unlike the traditional Chinese ruler-subject relations, the mayor, Geng Yanbo took a more down-to-earth problem solving way by talking to the citizens face to face on construction site. He directly supervised in the distribution of new apartments whenever it’s necessary. While confronting grievances, assigning a new flat to this or that citizen became his preferred method of gaining individual compliance. Because of that, more and more citizens had courage to fight for their own rights; also because of that, some people became more greedy and asked for more and more. It was hard to judge if the mayor’s problem solving way is right or wrong, but it is with no doubt that Datong’s culturally themed land redevlopment is the mayor’s brainchild and he would put whatever effort to achieve it.[2][3]








(image2. Retrived from the documentary: The Chinese Mayor)



[1]Li Xiaorui, Zhao Min, 2018. ” Study on the Restoration and Protection of Datong Ancient City Walls.” School of Liberal Arts, Datong Shanxi, China.

[2]Jonathan Kinkel, 2017. ” Datong, Forever in Limbo”. Made in China. https://www.chinoiresie.info/datong-forever-in-limbo/

[3]Zhou Hao, Filmed in 2015. “The Chinese Mayor”.


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