In Beijing, in less than 10 years, the equivalent of inner Paris will have been demolished and rebuilt. Promoted to capital of the Empire in 1267 by the Mongolian Yuan dynasty, no other historic capital has been remodelled in this way, at such a scale or at such a speed. Hardly 30 years ago Beijing was still a vast village constructed at ground level and carved up according to a grid pattern. The narrow alleys of ancient Beijing called 'hutongs', lined by traditional collective houses and built around square courtyards, have been destroyed to make way for large blocks of flats and wide boulevards. From the moment the sign 'chai', meaning 'destroy', has been placed on a house, the inhabitants generally have about two weeks to organise their move. People who have had a compulsory purchase order placed on their house must also leave the city centre, an environment deemed unhealthy, for the distant suburbs.
The building sites are active day and night, the preparations for the 2008 Olympic games being the pretext for the brutal acceleration of these works. The Chinese capital is demolishing its historic heart to build groups of monumentally tall buildings. It is the model of the American city that dominates, with its office blocks, residential complexes and shopping centres.