Kids cycle on the Tiananmen Square in Beijing on March 5 (CFP)
Early March brings blue skies, warmer temperatures, and longer daylight to Beijing. Spring is on its way. Another feature of early spring in the Chinese capital is the Two Sessions, the annual full sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, the two political bodies that address issues of national-level importance in China.
More than 5,000 delegates attend the Two Sessions. This creates logistical issues for the organizers, and visiting some of the main tourist attractions such as the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and other popular sites located in central Beijing can become difficult during those days.
I am a close follower of political and legislative developments in China. This time of year, therefore, is especially busy for me, making sure the details of the various government reports and decisions are all properly gathered and analyzed for my companies' clients. It is not unusual for my colleagues to issue four or five alerts during the Two Sessions, based on various government announcements, and to send a dozen reports off to clients after the Two Sessions have closed their doors.
Balancing work with the desire to enjoy more sunshine is not easy, but I try to spend more time outside in the warming weather on the relatively peaceful streets of Beijing during this period. For example, during a weekend in early March, I took advantage of the numerous promotions by the capital's extremely convenient bicycle-sharing services and had a great time biking around Beijing. And, it seemed that many other Beijingers were also enjoying the first signs of spring in similar fashion.
From my neighborhood of Guomao, or the China World Trade Center, I made it all the way to Andingmen, the location of popular sites such as the Beijing Confucian Temple, the former Imperial College, the Temple of Earth and the Lama Temple. This is about a 7-km ride, and in the mild, sunny weather, it is a pleasant half-hour workout, just enough to work up a little sweat. Temples, small shops, and hutongs (alleyways) create a special atmosphere in this part of the city, inside the Second Ring Road. The soft afternoon light allows the mind to float back in time to an era when the narrow streets were filled only with bicycles, the drifting perfume of incense and the voices of shopkeepers calling out to their loyal customers. Nowadays, the alleyways are full of tourists, and cozy little restaurants and design shops have also found their way into this area. This allows for the mixing of trendy youth and hutong old-timers, a unique sight that one finds only in Beijing.
This world seamlessly coexists with the large ring roads a few blocks away and the sprawling subway network of the capital that I used to return home later that day. The modern neighborhoods of Beijing offer comfort and services like those of any other metropolis in the world. And, while the pains of fast, large-scale development, such as traffic jams and air pollution, cannot be underestimated, the rapid growth in living standards for millions of people is easily visible as one moves around the city.
The work of the Two Sessions is to make sure that such development can continue, using technology and science in all relevant fields, and that any negative effects of rapid change are minimized and mitigated for ordinary citizens, undoubtedly a difficult task that policymakers all over the world struggle with.
The author is a Hungarian who has lived in Beijing since 2009
Copyedited by Chris Surtees
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