Is Beijing folding? A dark prophecy of cities

Chinese sci-fi writer Hao Jingfang won 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novelette with Folding Beijing, becoming the second Chinese author to do so after Liu Cixin and his Three Body Problem. But unlike Three Body Problem, Folding Beijing seems really creepy, especially for some Beijingers, like me. Actually it may be creepy for all of those living in cities, because you can tell that the border between reality and fiction is a little bit vague in this novelette.

This novelette is set in a futuristic imagination of Beijing which folds up every 24 hours and emerges on the other side of the plane. In this city, citizens are divided up into three different spaces by their social classes. Each class is separated by both space and time. Hao’s ideas on this fiction were inspired by one Beijing taxi driver who complained to her about how hard to get his kids into kindergarten.

I totally know that schooling in Beijing can be horrible, and it is definitely a nightmare for the city’s population of low-wage migrant workers. They can’t afford the cost of private schools and public schools are only open to official Beijing residents. Schooling is one of the problems showing the class differentiation in Beijing.

Due to the development of techniques, most of citizens are not engaged in work anymore in this folding city. This is another theme discussed about our future city life. How would the machines and automation finally have impact on the cities and even on the world? We are trying to eliminate the inequality caused by social development, but how much have we achieved? Is every civic technique we introduced into real life has been seriously considered? I am not so sure about the class differentiation of cities in developed countries. But a serious evaluation of techniques to be introduced is the same for every society in this highly changing world.

As a Beijinger, I don’t feel like to say bad things about the city which raised me. But I also believe that to face all the problems is the beginning of making the city I love ceaselessly lovable. The author graduating from a top university of China, who wrote a story like this, now works in China Development Research Foundation.


Folding Beijing:

Echo Huang: China’s Hugo award-winning sci-fi story is eerily real for some Beijingers

Alex Linder: Chinese sci-fi writer Hao Jingfang wins Hugo Award for Best Novelette with Folding Beijing