EVERY day Zhong Zhenhua patrols a small network of streets in a well-heeled part of northern Beijing, where a dozen apartment blocks house about 3,000 people. In recent weeks he has been paying attention to local construction workers to make sure that their building materials do not block people’s way. Mr Zhong says he also likes to call on local residents—particularly sick or elderly ones who might need help. The aim is to visit at least one household a day, he explains, though sometimes he can fit in up to five.
Mr Zhong is a “grid manager” operating in part of Huayan Beili Xi Community, a middle-class residential area near the capital’s iconic “bird’s nest” Olympic stadium. He has been recruited by the local government to watch over a “grid” of streets in the neighbourhood, solve problems if possible and pass bigger ones up the chain of command for higher-level attention. The grid system of ensuring order in urban areas was pioneered in Dongcheng, a central district of Beijing, in 2004. By 2017 about 60% of China’s cities were using it in some form, reckons Zhou Wang of Nankai University in Tianjin, up from 45% in 2015.[Source]