Protection or discrimination? Beijing’s new property prices curbing policy divide residents

February 18, 2011Jing Gao2 Comments, , , , , , , , , ,

Beijing’s prohibitively high real estate prices have plagued the city’s dwellers for years. Wealthy speculators who buy several pieces of real estate for investment purpose are a major reason why the prices can’t cease soaring, which takes heavy toll on less well-off purchasers. Earlier this week, Beijing announced a new set of rules to thwart speculation with a heavy hand. Among them, “Beijing registered families that own one home can only buy one more, and those who have already owned two homes will not be allowed to buy any more. Non-Beijing registered families with no residence permit or not paying social security or income tax in the past 5 years will also be banned from the real estate market.”

A Temporary Residence Permit issued by Beijing's Public Security Bureau

Shi Shusi, commentator at Caijing Magazine, questioned validity and legitimacy of the policy in Caijing’s official Sina microblog, “If you purely and utterly detest high property prices, you may savor the long-lost joy (from the policy). But sadly, the method by which to achieve the joy is discrimination, which is even more intolerable. Among the 17 million people living in Beijing, 5 million come from elsewhere who have no family register (in Beijing). Most of them are not speculators. Rather, they are constructors and contributors. But do they deserve discrimination for lack of hukou?”

Most commenters side with Shi Shusi, the blogger, and adamantly denounce the policy for treating residents differently based on family register. However, some seemingly local Beijingers, namely those who were either born as a Beijing registered resident or have come to Beijing for many years and “naturalized” defend the policy that prioritizes Beijingers and blame newcomers of enchroaching upon their resources and land. It somehow evolved into a debate between Beijingers and non-Beijing residents.

Family register, or hukou, is a system to control flow of population by implementing policies, for example, those regarding social security, health care and education opportunities, that favor “registered resident” from non-registered resident, or sometimes abruptly referred to as “outsiders.” As Beijing and Shanghai are the two most ideal places for migrant workers and have seen an explosion of population since China’s economic reform, a hukou is extremely hard to come by in these two cities. Until you get one, you are always a “temporary resident.”

Some of the routes to obtaining one include, becoming a public servant or an employee of a state-owned enterprise and investing several hundreds of thousands of yuan. People joked that obtaining hukou in Shanghai and Beijing is even harder than getting a green card in the U.S., in the sense that you only need to be married to a U.S. citizen for two years to be eligible for a green card, but you have to stay married to a Beijing-hukou holder above the age of 45 for ten years to get Beijing hukou, whereas being a spouse of a Shanghai-hukou holder never guarantees you one, no matter for how long.

Selected comments from Sina


You think you are discriminated against? Then pack up and leave for home! Why do you still hang on in Beijing? Beijing has become pretty terrible because of your torture. You think that is not enough? Should we Beijingers thank you for bringing us cigarette ends and disgusting spit thick on the ground? Or should we thank you for having ruined our city wall and demolished our bridge? Please, hurry back to where you came from!


If you believe that the property prices will finally fall, then raising the threshold at which outsiders buy real estate is a form of protection for them.


As for those whose three-generation ancestors were not residents of the imperial city(Beijing) and who do not have million bucks, how can you have the gall to talk about discrimination against workers? Outsiders are to be discriminated against. We have no other ways to deal with them anyway.


If you haven’t live and work in Beijing for five years, how do you have the gall to say you are a Beijinger? You want to buy a house soon after you get off the train? Is there any justice? Motherf**ker.


Intolerable. Just let anyone who can afford it buy. Why do you restrict this and that? You can’t possibly forbid people who have the dough to spend it, and make people who don’t have the dough to borrow it, can you?


Have never had a sense of belonging in Beijing. What if I pay tax? Do I get treated like a citizen if I pay tax? Still an alien on an alien land.


We are all workers, and taxpayers. Outsiders have contributed no less to Beijing than locals. Unfair.


I guess 12 million (registered) Beijingers are be happy with it. Why not make a survey?


How many of the 5 million (non-registered) people can really afford housing?


Can only blame that there are too many Chinese.


Let all outsiders get back to their hometowns! They’ve turned the capital city into a place people have nowhere to get breakfast.


They said Shanghai people are exclusionists. Now I’ve found people of the capital city are fiercer. They let you have no place to stand. This is called taking away the firewood from under the cauldron – a fundamental solution!


Hong Kong only allows you to stay there for seven days. Is it called discrimination? Taiwan isn’t even a place you can go even if you wish. Does it count as discriminating against your ancestors? Beijing’s public order has been stirred by exactly these people who lead the public opinion astray. Don’t thrust these charges upon Beijingers. You think going back home is intolerable and means discrimination. Beijingers are even about to be homeless!


A new way for Beijingers to make money: getting kickback on fake marriages… The Heavenly Kingdom is awesome.


While doing farm work, they say, we are a family. Don’t fuss over trifles. You earn more if you work more. When it is time to divvy up the harvest, they tell you that you are not even in the position to be a part.


Better emigrate. They force people to leave for a foreign country.


This part of people are not a small fraction. They truly deserve our sympathy. But should a policy protect people who have been living here for generations? After all, those people can go back to their hometowns and buy real estate there. Where do Beijingers go?


Because Beijing doesn’t belong to people all over the country. It belongs to Beijingers. Damn, I touched upon a sensitive subject and sensitive phrases again…


I have been gloriously residing in my motherland temporarily.


During the three decades since the economic reform, the biggest contributors are migrant workers who have left their hometowns. When we think the family register system is about to vanish, we would not know until we view in retrospect that family register as a means to hold back people’s development has become the biggest administrative burden.


This is damned Beijing.


It is always ordinary citizens who foot the bill.


Hehe, let’s criticize to our hearts’ content. The government will remain silent and turn a deaf ear accordingly.


The so-called discrimination is relative. First of all, Beijing Municipal Government are Beijingers’ government. If they can’t solve Beijingers’ housing problem, why do they have to solve non-Beijingers’ housing problem?


Besides accusation, Shi Shusi can’t really give any concrete and constructive advice.


One’s place of birth has nothing to do with human rights one is entitled to. No policy should differentiate “outsiders” and “locals.”

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2 comments to “Protection or discrimination? Beijing’s new property prices curbing policy divide residents”

  1. Jimmy | February 18, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Wow I never believed Chinese are so secular intra-country. Also none of those provisions will really bring down the real-estate pricing, though it may prevent them from rising. Most of the 8 or so provisions seem good, but they talk about using land and public housing stuff, but there is already so many abandoned skyscrapers and apartment buildings, or many where it only has residents up to the 5th or so floor. Why not work on using them first? There is plenty of already existing supply, and certainly enough demand, but prices are just too high. I hope more Chinese can afford housing soon.

  2. Cleo | February 19, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    China's majority is still too poor to participate in home ownership so I think it is better that China is blocking a wealthy minority from grabbing all the property before the rest of the country even has had a chance to reach a plateau of middle class. Google "everlasting sun" and 350 West 50th Street New York because foreigners can pay local citizens to buy up real estate or own real estate companies that try to acquire a large chunk of property. This registered HONG KONG company with Chinese surnamed executives bought the majority of apartments of a then famous, newly built skyscraper in Manhattan. I did a search for unit owners when I was interested in a small condo and found that the majority of the units were registered to Japanese surnamed owners all with the same contact person – a Japanese surnamed real estate broker in California. What if that happened in China? It would be easy to buy the services of a bad Chinese but with these government limits it should be harder to play the game of WeiQi with Chinese real estate.

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