The Beijing Central Business District, commonly referred to as the CBD, is Beijing’s centre of finance, media and business services. The area is booming, with modern skyscrapers, towering apartment blocks, massive shopping malls, bustling traffic and briskly-walking professionals in suits. The CBD is one of the core business and service centres in China and is emblematic of China’s rise as one of the world’s economic superpowers. The Beijing municipal government developed the CBD in the 1990s to further open up China to the world and capture the opportunities of WTO membership. It has been a huge success, attracting over 100 Fortune 500 businesses in the financial, media, information technology, consulting and service industries. Expat professionals enjoy the convenience of the shops and services here, as well as the numerous subway stops. On the other hand, it’s loud and lacks quiet green space and other neighbourhood charms.
The CBD is east of the city centre, occupying four square kilometres of Chaoyang District and essentially sandwiched between the Third and Fourth Ring Roads. The location is outstanding, as it’s a short commute to the popular neighbourhoods of Chaoyang and Sanlitun, as well as the city centre. The main landmarks are the New CCTV tower, China World Trade Towers, The Place, The Kerry Centre, Jianwai SOHO and New SOHO. Jinwai SOHO is quite a modern spectacle, with 16 white high-rises – all with all-white interiors. These buildings contain apartments, offices and over 200 restaurants. Education options for children of all ages and nationalities are bountiful in Chaoyang District, which is reasonably close to the CBD.
Living among Beijing’s most thriving business and commercial activity comes at a price, though. Almost all the housing crammed into the CBD is very valuable, and rents are generally higher than anywhere else in Beijing, and arguably anywhere else in China. If you choose to live in the CBD, you’ll most likely be in a high-rise luxury flat in a serviced building. These are ideal for single professionals who enjoy the hustle and bustle and being close to work, but do not require a lot of living space. A two-bedroom apartment in the Fortune Plaza development could set you back RMB14,000 per month, while a similar apartment in Central Park or Blue Castle, both popular areas for expats, costs half as much. Apartments in newer developments near the Fourth Ring Road east of the CBD are considerably cheaper.
Health and Wellness
The Beijing Vista Clinic in the Kerry Centre is a reputable private hospital that offers 24-hour emergency care, general medical services and a pharmacy stocked with Western medicine. You’ll find full dental services at SDM Dental in the China World Shopping Mall. The China-Japan Friendship Hospital, north of the CBD in Chaoyang District, is a highly regarded public hospital and was used by athletes during the 2008 Olympics. The nearest International SOS Clinic is in Sanlitun, which has staff who speak English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The Amcare Women & Children’s Hospital in Chaoyang specialises in maternity care, pediatrics and women’s health. The Tongrentang Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic is the most famous in Beijing. Many of the large apartment complexes have excellent fitness facilities. The Kerry Centre also houses Kerry Sports, a massive gym with a swimming pool, exercise classes and tennis courts. If you’re willing to make the short commute to Sanlitun, there are several world-class fitness centers and it won’t be hard to find something suitable.
Chaoyang has many education options for families living in the CBD. Kids usually make the reasonably short commute up to the international schools in Sanlitun. The British School of Beijing is conveniently located on Sanlitun Xiliujie and follows the English National Curriculum (including GCSE), which offers pre-kindergarten through year six. The Canadian International School of Beijing uses a Montessori model that operates under the direct guidance of the Ministry of Education of Canada with teachers certified by Canadian standards. It has state-of-the-art facilities and advertises a 10:1 student to teacher ratio. Beijing Zhongguancun International School (BZIS) is an independent private school founded in 2002 to serve the Zhongguancun Science & Technology Zone, known as the Silicon Valley of China. The school was originally set up to serve the educational needs of returning overseas Chinese, but has since expanded to serve the children of expats. BZIS offers curriculum from Elementary (pre-kindergarten to grade 5) to High School (grades 9-12). It has modern facilities and offers an American curriculum approved by the California Department of Education. The Beijing World Youth Academy caters to both Chinese and foreign students for grades six to 12, offering the International Baccalaureate curriculum or Chinese national curriculum as well as a plethora of interactive after-school activities. There are two campuses in Chaoyang; the southern one on Maizidian Jie is the most convenient for CBD residents. For German-speakers, the Deutsche Botschaftsschule Peking, a small German embassy school, provides the German Board of Education curriculum for students from kindergarten to Year 13.
The CBD is congested, but is one of the few residential areas popular with expats that has convenient subway access. The Third Ring Road cuts right through the CDB and the Fourth Ring Road roars along the eastern edge of the district. The area’s main boulevard, Jianguomen Dajie, shoots directly through the CBD from Tiananmen Square, though the name changes to Dongchang’an Jie in the city center. The Third Ring Road connects to the airport expressway in the north. Traffic can be really heavy during peak times and taxis may be hard to flag down. The Beijing Railway Station is just south of the CBD. Basically, due to its central location and intense commerce, travel by car in and out of the CBD can be excruciatingly slow. Expats who reside here prefer to travel by subway.
Three main subway lines – East-West Line 1, Line 10 and Loop Line 2 – all pass through the CBD, meaning you can reach anywhere in the city via subway. The central axis of the CBD is known as the “Golden Cross” and is where Line 1 and Line 2 cross. Line 1 accompanies Jianguomen Dajie east into the city center and directly west past the ring roads. Line 2 passes through the popular area of Dongzhimen and proceeds to loop around the city center, connecting to several other subway lines. Just east of the CBD, Line 1 connects to Line 10, which stops along all of the popular areas of Chaoyang. Because the CBD is so compact, it’s one of the few areas in Beijing where walking from point A to point B is a viable option.
Shopping, Services and Entertainment
The CBD is Beijing’s shopping mecca and there are enough restaurants and bars crammed into the giant malls and high-rises to keep it interesting. Otherwise, the popular expat restaurant and nightclub strip in Sanlitun is a short ride away. The CBD is Beijing’s district for designer labels both real and fake. The Silk Market is the most popular market for tourists in Beijing, with six floors of merchandise and tailoring. A 10-minute walk north of the Silk Market is Guanghua Lu, where The Place resides. This is an absolutely massive shopping mall, though the highlight is the 250-metre long, 30-metre wide TV screen suspended above the plaza. You have to see it to believe it. The Place, China World and Shin Kong Place sell the real deal in international brand name fashion. The area to the west, near Ritan Park, has a Jenny Lou’s grocery, a Friendship Store and bakeries. There’s a Wal-Mart in the Wanda Plaza along Jianguo Lu.
In the CBD, most of the best bars and restaurants are attached to hotels or in giant shopping complexes. Ritan Park and the surrounding area offer a lot of excellent Asian and Western restaurants. The Stone Boat Café, in the centre of the park itself, is hugely popular in the summer with live music and gregarious crowds.