Updated: 2011-10-07 10:15
By Hu Haiyan (China Daily)
High-end villas and Western-style schools are major drawcards for expatriates living in Shunyi. [Provided to China Daily]
Daniel Lugonjic, a 34-year-old logistics manager with German auto major BMW China, is one of the new breed of professionals who have taken to Shunyi much like ducks to water.
Lugonjic has been in Shunyi for just eight months, and says that his first overseas experience of relocation and living has been exciting and challenging. "So far, Shunyi has been a very pleasant experience for me and my family."
Daniel Lugonjic, logistics manager with German automaker BMW, started living in Shunyi eight months ago. [Provided to China Daily]
Like several others of his kind, Lugonjic says, "Shunyi is all about huge gated communities, luxurious compounds, expatriate packages, lakeside villas, four-by-fours and surreal Western-style schools."
Chang Zhen, the 40-year old director of the residential sales department at real estate service provider Savills (Beijing), says that the further development and internationalization of Beijing will see more and more international communities springing up in locales like Shunyi and Yansha.
However, Chang feels that Shunyi is much better than others as it boasts of advantages such as airport, logistics, leisure sports, high-end villas and international schools.
The 1,020 square kilometers of urban sprawl in the Beijing countryside is also one of the capital's three New Districts, with the other two being Tongzhou and Yizhuang. The city is also known as an international aviation hub and a modern manufacturing base.
Local government officials have drawn up plans to further improve Shunyi's industrial structure by adopting better manufacturing techniques, enlarging the service sector, and by adopting more effective and modern agricultural techniques during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).
Shunyi had gross domestic product (GDP) of 86.79 billion yuan ($13.6 billion, 10.3 billion euros) in 2010, with an average annual growth rate of 27.6 percent in the last five years.
In its working report for this year, the Shunyi government describes the area as "livable and international".
"We will make use of the development opportunities created by the airport logistics and modern manufacturing industries and turn ourselves into a modern, international and environmental friendly city," says Wang Gang, head of Shunyi district government.
According to Wang, the aim is to develop the service sector with the primary focus being to boost aviation-related services, finance, logistics, leisure and tourism, the cultural industry such as conventions and exhibition services. The manufacturing industry will focus on aviation, auto manufacturing, food and beverages, and IT.
The underlying theme in Shunyi, according to Wang, will be a green and low-carbon development model for sustainable growth.
At the same time the city will continue to draw on its rich legacy of international education and healthy living to attract expatriate families. Chang says international schools began to establish their presence in Shunyi in the 1980s and since then a vibrant and mature foreign community has taken up residence.
"For most foreigners who take up jobs in China, the primary concern is children's education. With a plethora of international schools to choose from, Shunyi remains the top draw for such families," Chang says.
Lugonjic from BMW says that it was the educational facilities available in Shunyi that drew him to the place. His two sons, aged four and five, are now studying at Ebuwings, a German kindergarten, in Shunyi.
"We are happy that our children get the same education as in Germany. The chance to mix with children of different nationalities will truly broaden their horizons."
Established in 1980, the International School of Beijing-Shunyi (ISB) broadly typifies the success of international schools in the area.
"ISB has grown rapidly from a school for children of American diplomats in the early 1970s to a full-range elementary, middle and high school," says Tarek B. Razik, head of ISB in Shunyi, adding that the original school site had to be expanded to cater for the increased student intake.
In 1995 the board of ISB started searching for a new site and finally settled upon Shunyi district and moved there in 2002. "The reasons why ISB moved to Shunyi apart from affordable land costs was that the area was already home to a large number of expatriates," says Razik.
Spread over 130,000 square meters, the school has invested $25 million (19 million euros) to create new facilities, including a playground, stadium, tennis court and gymnasium. Currently, more than 1,900 students from more than 50 countries and regions study at ISB.
"As the number of foreign investors living in China continues to grow, the demand for international schools is also picking up pace. There has been a steady increase in the total number of students for the international schools in Shunyi every year," says Razik.
"I have been to different countries and worked in several international schools. But there are no big differences between the international schools in Shunyi and those in other developed countries like the United States," he says.
The Shunyi site of the British School of Beijing, which opened in 2006, is the school's second campus in Beijing, with another in the Sanlitun area.
"Our Shunyi campus enjoys many advantages. It is perfectly placed for the most popular expatriate friendly housing compounds. The space and outdoor areas allow the campus to have a range of different facilities, which enhances our competitive strength," says Mike Embley, executive principal of BSB.
There is no doubt that gated communities and high-end villas are another major draw in Shunyi.
"Many foreigners, especially those who are executives in foreign companies, prefer to live in the suburbs that are less visited and less populated. But they are also concerned with the facilities and the living environment. That's why more high-end villas are coming up in Shunyi," says Chang from Savills.
For many expatriates Shunyi is an urban frontier for families who want to escape the city life.
Catherine Hayden, 35, came to Beijing one year ago when her husband was posted to China and has lived in Rose and Ginkgo Villa developed by Longfor Properties Co Ltd in Shunyi.
"We used to live in a village in Birmingham, UK. We like the slow-paced and tranquil life of the suburbs. I knew I wasn't going to find a small town like my hometown in Beijing but living in Shunyi was the next best thing.
"It's the greatest place in Beijing to raise a family. There's probably more foreign families in Shunyi than any other district in China," she says.
Bu Wei, 32, customer service manager of Rose and Ginkgo Villa, says that demand for high-end villas has been steady both in terms of rentals as well as sales despite the financial crisis in the Western world.
Deng Xin, customer service manager of Long Wan Villa in Shunyi, says that the high demand for quality services at the villas has helped boost development of the area.
"Sale prices of high-end villas have risen by 10 to 15 percent this year compared with the prices in 2009. We are anticipating that will continue for some more time," says Guo Zhaoxian, an official with property agency Maitian.
Though living away from the city does have some inconveniences such as long commuting time, it has not been a major deterrent. Hayden says that her husband, James, 35, who works with Ericsson in Wangjing in Chaoyang district, takes about 25 minutes every day to commute to his office depending on the traffic.
"Actually, living in Shunyi is very convenient. It is close to the airport and not far away to the downtown area. We can easily enjoy the tranquil life in Shunyi and the modern life in the downtown area," says Hayden, who is pregnant.
"We treat Shunyi as a second home, and we are happy that we are welcoming our second child here."