Stressed by high rent in Beijing? Win a Nobel prize, move to Tongzhou

Society & Culture

Tongzhou District in Beijing, the capital’s sub-center that lies in the eastern suburbs near Hebei Province, has announced plans to offer rent reductions to those recognized as “talent” by the municipal government and who agree to work for a local employer for at least three years.

According to an announcement (in Chinese) from the Tongzhou government on May 21, the district is providing six tiers of rewards, commensurate with the tenant’s accomplishments. The highest reward is a discount on 100 square meters of a rental apartment, which is reserved for extremely high-end residents like Nobel laureates, Turing Award winners, and scholars at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. People who belong to the lowest tier of “talent,” such as senior technicians and Ph.D. students, can receive a rental discount on 40 square meters.

The incentives are part of the area’s grand strategy to attract a diverse mix of skilled individuals to the area. To claim the rewards, applicants need to submit materials to prove that they meet the government’s narrow definition of “talent.” Their family can’t already own property in the region, and they must sign at least a three-year employment contract with a local company or institution.

Once a suburban oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the capital, Tongzhou District has been aggressively rebranding itself as an up-and-coming area with the clear goal of reducing the population density in Beijing. Last year, a number of Beijing municipal government departments and agencies relocated their offices to the area, with the move perceived as an official signal that Tongzhou will transform into a residential region with modern infrastructure and facilities. In addition, Tongzhou will be home to Universal Studios Beijing, which is slated to become the largest ever Universal theme park in the world.

Given that a significant number of young people in Beijing are reportedly struggling to find affordable housing in the capital, Tongzhou’s incentive policies are expected to give it an upper hand in luring talented young migrants. But many internet users have ridiculed the Tongzhou government for its unrealistic hopes of attracting Nobel laureates with only the mildly tempting offer of rental discounts.

Below are a collection of how people on Chinese social media reacted to the news:

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 3.39.21 PM“Everyone in Tongzhou is a talent who works hard to win a Nobel prize for the sole purpose of paying less in rent. I’m rooting for them!”

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 3.39.30 PM“I thought they would just give away 100-square-meters houses.”

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 3.39.48 PM“This is an outright insult to talented people.”

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 3.40.31 PM“Why would I live in Tongzhou if I were a Nobel laureate??? What??? You think you are good enough to keep me around?”

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 3.49.51 PM“Nobel Prize? I read the news three times to make sure I am literate.”

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 3.50.27 PM“Has Tongzhou lost its mind?”

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 3.51.14 PM“Are they trying to keep talent or scare away talent?”