Commuters crossing the street

How the Pandemic Delayed the Dreams of a Beijing Bedroom Community

Lockdowns and provincial border controls frustrate commuters of Yanjiao, a well-known satellite town of Beijing in Hebei province

Two years after she moved out of Beijing and into neighboring Hebei province to save money, Liu Han is now seriously considering paying more than double what she now spends in rent to move back to the capital—at least she’ll be able to go to work more regularly that way.

The 27-year-old originally from Sichuan province, who works in finance and asked to be identified by a pseudonym, claims she has spent less than a month in total working physically at her office in Beijing since the start of this year. Liu’s normally smooth 35-kilometer commute from her apartment in Yanjiao, a town in Hebei province, has been interrupted multiple times this year by pandemic-control measures that locked down neighborhoods, tightened checkpoints on the highway, and sometimes, barred all residents of the town from entering the metropolis across the Chaobai River.

The latest lockdown on Liu’s residential compound ended on May 4, “but it doesn’t matter to those of us who work in Beijing, because we still can’t enter the city,” Liu tells TWOC—referring to what she believes is a common experience among residents in her compound, largely inhabited by commuters like herself.

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author Alex Colville

Alex Colville is the former culture editor at The World of Chinese. Blown to China by the tides of curiosity, then marooned here by the squalls of Covid, Alex used to write for 1843, The Economist, and the Spectator from the confines of a cold London flat. When he’s not writing for TWOC, he can be found researching his bi-weekly column for SupChina from the confines of his freezing Beijing hutong.

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