Exit A Baishizhou Station, Luobao Metro Line

51 seconds in Baishizhou.


jiaochangwei, or the coastal economy

For those who have been following Shenzhen’s expansion, you have noted the correspondence between the establishment of an administrative category, the announcement of an economic sector, and the full on government led reappropriation of folk investments and small scale development.

The opposition in play is the contradiction between 官方 and 民间 I’ve translated 官方 as government led because the appropriating entity is often government appointed or a state owned enterprise, but there is diversity and even discord therein, as will become apparent below. I’ve translated 民间 as folk because it captures something of the quaint and small and outdated notion of the public that seems to operate during these transitions. Moreover, the public is itself an important sphere of government led action.

Dapeng constitutes Shenzhen’s one remaining strip of relatively undeveloped coastline. It has been a site of 民间 development. The forms of folk development, for example, have included seafood restaurants in Nan Ao, and the strip of cheap inns at Jiaochangwei (较场尾). Jiaochangwei is a coastal village, as is evident from the mash-up of various generations of what are colloquially known as “farmer housing (农民房). And yes, Jiaochangwei is technically an urban village, with an emphasis on village and nature, rather than urban a la Baishizhou). Previous large scale development has been undertaken by Vanke (万科) which opened Shenzhen’s first yacht clubs far, far from the city. Or so it seemed.

In theory the Dapeng Peninsula is a conservation area, but so was the original Mangrove Park. However, in 2011 the Municipality designated Dapeng a New District (discussed earlier). Since then, there has been all sorts of investment in roads and even a national level geological museum slash park. This has been part of a movement to encourage the development of the coastal economy, including government led real estate development, which (as in Shekou) involves infrastructural transformation and privatization of the coastline.

At the moment most of these areas are only accessible by car, but an express bus, the E 11 gets ordinary folk into the area and a subway line is being built. Impressions of Jiaochangwei, below. And yes, if you decide to go, go during the week. On the weekend, there can be road delays of more than an hour, and lines for restaurants and ubiquitous BBQ joints.

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paper crane tea #2 is online

For the curious. “So why do foreigners go to urban villages?” is online. Please check it out and grow the conversation about Baishizhou and why it matters. For all of us.


volunteerism and possible civic identities in shenzhen

In the Summer of 2011, Shenzhen hosted the Universiade. At the time, we complained about the face projects and cost there of. In retrospect, it seems, however, that one of the more lasting effects of hosting what is basically an Olympics for college students was that volunteerism and u-stations took root and flourished.

U-stations can be found throughout the city, and are staffed by young friendly and sufficiently bi-lingual folk, who hand out bike maps to the city and introduce nearby attractions. All wear the highly recognizable Shenzhen volunteer vest. In fact, this new emphasis on volunteer citizen participation may also have contributed to an interesting renaming–Shenzhen migrant workers are now officially called “those who have come to build Shenzhen”. The phase reworks the Shenzhen volunteer slogan, “if you come, you are a Shenzhener”. The Chinese wordplay is from 来了就是深圳人 to 来深建设者.

Several days ago, I met with the director of the Baishizhou Culture Center. We spoke in a comfortable, well lit library which was also a u-station! Other programs run by the Center included an after school program, which is staffed by those young and friendly red-vested volunteers. We were in the station to talk about opening a community learning center under the auspices of this collaboration between multiple levels of government. We would be another NGO sponsored by some level of government to work in Baishizhou.

This is where the administrative structure gets interesting. The culture station is housed in the Baishizhou Five Village corporation, which represents locals’ interests and manages Baishizhou properties, electrical, sanitation, and other municipal services. However, the culture station is funded by the street government, which is responsible for implementing district policy. The volunteers are a municiple level NGO.

So here’s the a-ha moment: u-stations and volunteers have permeated even urban village regulatory structures and may have an important role in redefining citizenship and the role of the city in financing not-for-profits.

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what’s the good of public art…

…in an urban village?

This was the topic of the first Paper Crane Tea 2014.03.09. I’m posting the link because my VPN isn’t fast enough to tunnel video over or under the great firewall. Will upload next time I’m in Hong Kong. Sigh.


blooming contradictions

Unfortunately, more often than not modernization leaves us with street names instead of actual landscape features.

Shenzhen public landscaping, for example, has been defined by its enthusiasm for inaccessible green space that adorn its roads. Throughout the city, there are lovely swathes of topiary and grass that pedestrians (and even birds) can’t actually access except in passing. In part to rectify this problem, but also in response to the city’s white collar residents, a vast network of bike trails have been installed throughout the city. Moreover, these trails have been mapped and the public encouraged to walk and ride through the cities green belts.

Here’s the moment of ecological dissonance: at the same time that functionaries are being encouraged to bike on the weekend, plans have been announced to reclaim 39.7 sq kilometers of Dapeng Bay. The corporate culprit is China Oil, which intends to use the reclaimed land for extracting South China Sea oil reserves. And yes, these plans are moving forward despite the fact that Dapeng New District is an environmental conservation district.

So pictures of the Nanhai (literally “South Ocean”) Road, below and a link to an article about the land reclamation project, here.

What’s in a name, indeed.

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de-industrialization with chinese characteristics

This past week I have been in Wuhan, the political, economic, cultural, transportation a land educational center of China. Like it’s US American sister cities Pittsburgh and St Louis, once upon an early industrial time, Wuhan thrived and sparkled and offered developmental opportunities that paradoxically challenged and reinforced coastal hegemonies, in New York and Shanghai, respectively.

Wuhan also faces the challenge of restructuring its heavy industrial economy, even as young people migrate to coastal cities for more contemporary opportunities. In Shenzhen I know many Wuhan people involved in the City’s creative industries. In point of fact, Wuhan has more college students than any other city on the planet, which is to say the city grooms talent that leaves for elsewhere, carrying dreams and solid heartland values in suitcases that fuel coastal growth.

I moseyed around two of Wuhan’s historic areas, one famous the other not so. Hankou boasts colonial architecture and a formerly robust mercantile history. Tanhualin in Wuchang was long ago the site of a Buddhist temple and later the location of Christian missions, including churches, schools and a hospital. Impressions of ongoing historic convergence, below.

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