After 1989 and the devastating failure of the Tiananmen Square movement, Chinese society quickly entered a new era, an era of commodification. In his "Speeches During the Inspection Tour in the South," Deng Xiaoping put forth his famous argument that "Development is hard reason.” As one of its symptoms, urbanization rapidly increased following the “reform and opening” policy. Beijing and Shanghai were the first to bear the brunt. In Beijing, the city appearance began to change with surprising speed, not to mention that Beijing hosted the 1990 Asian Games, which triggered an acceleration in urbanization. Through 1993, the second, third and part of the fourth Ring Roads were opened to traffic; new architecture arose in many quarters of Beijing, occupying that giant city with cold, hastily erected office towers and apartment complexes; giant advertising boards were all over the central part of the city, and many foreign brands like Coca-Cola und Umbrella constituted the visual experience of Beijing’s daily life. In the meantime, material life in general improved on the basis of economic reform; for example, in 1993 the supply of grain and oil became open-ended. The reform of the wage system encouraged more and more ordinary people to venture into business: all of a sudden, the market became the only thing that mattered.
Besides the first supermarket, many new luxury hotels and restaurants, demolition was also a central issue of the urbanization process. The demolition of Beijing's historic courtyard alleyways, called hutong, started in the early 1990s. At the height of the city's headlong rush to modernity, about 600 hutong were destroyed each year, displacing an estimated half million residents. Seemingly overnight, the city was transformed from a warren of Ming-dynasty neighborhoods into an ultramodern urban sprawl, packed with gleaming office towers and traversed by eight-lane highways. The current situation of the old city's people, land and housing, and the residents' living situation, is relatively poor: gentrification has been realized at a price.