As you walk through the main area of Zhongguan Village, you may often find yourself surrounded by the idea of innovation and entrepreneurship: when you raise your head, you might often see entrepreneurs’ typical smile on LED screens; when you bow your head, however, you might see second-hand book stands selling books filled with Baffet and Jack Ma’s business philosophy. Even on utility boxes, you could see very striking characters such as “Innovation” and “Entrepreneurship” in bold font.
Many Chinese internet users are gald to see electronics malls such as Hilon drew the curtain. In TMTpost Photo Gallery 036 (Plus Video), we focused our attention again on Zhongguan Village, the very place where China’s IT industry began and gradually rose, and found that the place was under huge-scale upgrade and transformation.
There are various versions about the origins of the concept “Zhongguan Village”. However, the most popular interpretation is that Zhongguan Village used to be the burial place of many Chinese eunuch (also referred to as “Zhongguan”) during the Ming and Qing dynasty. The Chinese people began to know Zhongguan Village in the 1980s, when many Chinese scientists who used to work in the Silicon Valley went back to China and started their own business around Zhongguan Village area. By 1987, there were already over a hundred tech companies in this area, such as Stone Group, Xintong Group, Science Sea Electronics, Jinghai Group. Afterwards, people began to refer to Zhongguan Village as “the Street of Electronics”.
It was December, 15th, 2015. An entrepreneur was giving a roadshow at Zhongguan Village. Up till now, Zhongguan Village has already gathered over 10,000 tech companies. New startups are established, while old ones went bankrupt every day here. The fad for innovation and entrepreneurship in China entered into climax when Premier Li Keqiang paid a visit to InnoWay in May, 2015.
New posters looking for partners, talents or investors can be seen every day on the walls of all the cafés in this area.
A café owner decided to expand business scale, rent the entire building and re-decorate the place into an innovation incubator. It was July, 25th, 2016, someone left the Chinese characters for “innovation” on a window of the café.
It was July, 25th, 2016, Zhongguan village. Another café was also under redecoration and upgrade.
The 17-year-old Hilon Electronics Mall drew the curtain also in July, and the building, from the first to the fifth floor, was under decoration. According to official announcement, the place is going to be transformed into an Innovation Center for Smart Hardware.
Posters warning consumers of fake products could still be seen in the mall. Electronics malls are known for selling fake products. “I went to Hilon to buy a camera once upon a time, but when I confirmed the price and went to a store, the owner told me that the model had already been sold out, so he recommended to me a more expensive camera package. However, it turned out that I was cheated into paying 6,000 yuan more for the same product. When I tried to reason with the shop owner, he said that there was nothing wrong, he sold the camera package at the market price, and threated that nobody would care even if I called 110 or 12315,” a customer recalled. Afterward, he never came to Zhongguan Village to buy anything, and even convinced his friends into not buying anything there either.
Another electronics mall beside Hilon, which used to be packed with customers, was also under redecoration and upgrading. After all the shop owners left, a banner that read “There’s nothing hard to sell here” was left in the building.
The portrait of JD’s founder Liu Qiangdong could be seen on the cover of a magazine at a news stand. Mr. Liu, who started his business by selling genuine CD disks, is probably one of the most famous shop owners who started business at Zhongguan Village. When Pacific Digital & Electronics Mall was closed, many Chinese internet users blamed Mr. Liu and his JD. However, Mr. Liu responded in his Weibo account, saying that: “It is not so much JD as yourselves who is to be blame. Tell me the truth: Have you ever changed the genuine products into fake ones? Have you ever sold fake products? Have you ever beaten customers? What goes around comes around, isn't it?” he refuted.
Mr. Wang had already been carrying goods around Zhongguan Village for around a decade. “There used to be over 30 handcart driver like me around these electronics malls, but over half of them have already left for somewhere else,” he told TMTpost.
The Chinese characters for “innovation” and ”entrepreneurship” were added to a utility box located around West Zhongguan Village area after some upgrading and beautification.
Books about the secret of success, the business philosophy and chicken soups were sold on second-hand book stands in Zhongguan Village.
Billboards on the side of buildings were filled with advertisements about innovation and entrepreneurship.
Still, Zhongguan Village remains the “Meca City” for many Chinese. On July, 25th, 2016, a father took his son and paid a visit to a startup focused on robotic technologies and tried to interact with a robot.
Chinese parents and students (primary or high school) waited in queues to pay a visit to Peking University during the Summer Vacation. A huge refurbish plan has already begun: the 7.2-kilometer-long Zhongguan Village Avenue, with the East Gate of Peking University to the north and the Baishi Bridge South to the south, is going to be upgraded into “A Street of Innovation”. All the 36 office buildings, 18 shopping malls, small-sized retailing markets as well as 8 electronics malls are going to be upgraded and refurbished. “It’s hard to see so huge scale of upgrading and refurbishing in this area due to the complex property right. For a long while, people find it hard to see any change on the avenue,” a relevant personnel told TMTpost.
OpenSource Office Building is one of the most ancient buildings on the Zhongguan Village Avenue. “This building was built when it was still surrounded by agricultural fields. American internet companies such as Microsoft and IBM landed in this building when they first entered China,” a property management personnel of the building told TMTpost. In 2016, the four-storey building finally got the chance to be refurbished.
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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @flybutchery, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.