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December 18, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright December 18, 2009. Used by permission.


China Beat will be going on vacation for the next two weeks, and will return in 2010. Before we sign off for the holidays, here are a few stories that have caught our eye lately:

1. In the Business Standard, Pallavi Aiyar writes that the “Ghosts of Beijing Lurk in Brussels.” Moving from Beijing to Brussels, Aiyar was anticipating a departure from the relentless cycle of urban destruction and construction that had marked her years in China:

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Schuman, the headquarters of the European Union and a 10-minute drive from downtown Brussels, to scenes right out of the rubble of Beijing’s incessantly re-wrought cityscape.

Box-like structures of glass and chrome glinted dully through the fog of dust flying about the carcasses of half-demolished older buildings. Bulldozers blocked traffic and passers-by had to resort to mime to communicate over the cacophony of construction clatter.

This piece of Beijing in the heart of Brussels was the home of the thousands of European Union bureaucrats that run the 27-member bloc’s affairs. The centrepiece was an orange coloured fortress-like hulk of a building called the Berlaymont which I was later to find out was more often referred to as the Berlaymonster.

Built in the 1960s, the “Berlaymonster” was constructed upon the ashes of the Dames de Berlaymont, a 300-year-old convent. The surrounding area, once a pleasant residential neighbourhood dating back to the 19th century and teeming with neighbourhood stores, churches and parks was also laid waste to make way for other lacklustre EU institution buildings.