THERE’S NO ESCAPING the advent of new wealth in China. It’s a characteristic of almost any emerging market that new developments dot the skyline.
But it’s also a characteristic that authorities, or at least some major developers, have specific plots of land some distance from the traditional city centre where much of this new development is concentrated.
It seems to defy the logic of conventional urban planning in the 20th century, that an intended CBD would belong somewhere on the fringe, as if to suggest that the rest of the city could gravitate towards it as the future.
Such is the case that the Guomao district – literally translating as “World Trade” – is a bottle neck at any time of day. I’ve always associated it with the congestion and hassle of interchanging there, so I never gave time to see it.
That changed yesterday evening, with an opportunity to scale Beijing’s tallest building. Unsurprisingly, a bar occupies the top – and its main clientele is corporate. Cocktails are also proceed accordingly to this taste. It’s certainly quote the swanky joint, with the ambience – and a stage ready for any live music.
Plus the views to match … sort of. The top of China World Trade Center provides a spectacular panorama of Beijing … on a clear day. But that happens only once in a while – you’d be lucky to catch it on any given day. It’s even a challenge to see most of the lights at night, especially with the congestion in Guomao.
It’s quite an irony. With new wealth comes the opportunity to enjoy these little luxuries. But it’s mostly vehicle pollution that causes Beijing’s infamous haze. Car ownership has skyrocketed, and while the metro is ever so gradually keeping up pace with development, having and using one’s own vehicle is both a creature comfort and status symbol. Seems like it’s either enjoying the view from the top – or from the bottom – but not both.