Summary of In Beijing, 20 Million People Are Pretending to Live a Life

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In Beijing, 20 Million People Are Pretending to Live a Life summary
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Chinese blogger Zhang Wumao wrote this biting essay on the negative effects of Beijing’s urbanization on its inhabitants and published it on his WeChat channel Mr. Zhang Says. The article went viral immediately, getting more than five million views overnight and sparking a heated debate on the Internet. Within a week, people wrote more than 100,000 responses, mostly criticizing Zhang for his generalizations and use of anecdotal evidence. State-owned Chinese news outlet People’s Daily tried to paint a more contrasting picture of life in Beijing, arguing that people were actually “living a new life.” The overwhelming media attention eventually led WeChat to block access to the original article. Although the essay addresses an important social issue and obviously strikes a chord with many people, it is intentionally polarizing and not very substantial. Nonetheless, getAbstract recommends Zhang’s analysis to people interested in Beijing’s talk of the town.

About the Author

Zhang Wumao is the pen name of blogger Zhang Guochen. He runs a WeChat Wemedia channel called Mr. Zhang Says.



Beijing is a Chinese city without warmth. The influx of money has made people pretentious and cold. Finding friends is difficult, because people aren’t willing to make time for one another. At this point, exchanging business cards counts as becoming friends, and having a meal together without any business motives makes you best buddies.

Beijing is simply too big. The city is the equivalent of 2.5 Shanghais, 8.4 Shenzhens, 15 Hong Kongs, 21 New Yorks or 27 Seouls. Beijing’s outer limits are sprawling – expanding outward endlessly. Attending a meeting on the other side of town feels like an out-of-town business trip. If you and your partner live on different sides of the city, you...

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