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Year in review: Top China stories of 2017
3. Beijing’s urban transformation
A banner posted in Xizongbu hutong in downtown Beijing. Photo:
Another move to combat “urban diseases” was a clean-up campaign, as the capital city plans to limit its population at the 23 million level by 2020. 
Since earlier this year, small shops and businesses could be seen torn down on some popular streets and hutongs in downtown Beijing. Sanlitun, a popular nightlife destination famous for its bars, small restaurants and street vendors, was one of the clean-up targets in March. 
While many of those bars and restaurants were attached to original residential buildings and extended onto streets, they were what the government called as illegal buildings which need to be demolished to release population pressure and to restore the charm of the old city of Beijing. 
Renovations in Beijing are not new, but this year they were more visible and widespread. According to a government document released in January, the city plans to administer a total of around 16,000 places with such illegal activities, covering an area of over 40 million square meters of Beijing, which has an area 1,641 square kilometers. 
The move is associated with the government’s mission to reduce the capital’s permanent population which, according to official data, amounted to 21.7 million by the end of 2015, of which 8.32 million were migrants, accounting for 38% of the permanent population. Now, the city government has set a goal to control its permanent population at 23 million by 2020, which means illegal construction providing cheap housing for migrant workers would have to be taken down.

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