i’ve moved up from the second floor of building two, tianmian garden estates to the sixteenth floor of city square, an upscale residential / business apartment complex just next to the shenzhen-hong kong border. the differences between my two apartments speak to how lifestyles has become an important aspect to the construction, definition, and maintenance of class positions in shenzhen. specifically, the buildings themselves facilitate the cultivation of different bodies. very different kinds of lives.

key differences:

(1) tianmian gardens is located in an urban village (tianmian), next to the new central business district, just west of the old border between “downtown” shenzhen and what used to be “the suburbs”. in contrast, city square is an independent residential building, located right next to the border, indeed, i can see the luohu train station from my window. in addition, city square is not part of a larger project, instead it is an independent residential building. for example, i now live just next to a multi-story sauna and bath club. in other words, tianmian gardens was built through rural urbanization and city square as part of urbane urbanization (for definitions of these terms see this entry.)

(2) tianmian was planned and built between 1998 and 2001 (the tianmian city office building and garden skylight hotel were finished in 2004). city square was planned and built between 2004 and 2006. this difference is important because it reflects two different moments in shenzhen real estate. before 2005, shenzhen real estate was primarily affordable housing. at the time, millenium oasis represented luxurious living in shenzhen. however, post 2005, shenzhen real estate prices suddenly exploded. as a result, developers have been upping the luxury ante in order to maintain profit margins.

(3) the two apartments share the same basic layout–subdivided box. however, city square is smaller, but more luxuriously appointed. also, the kitchen in city square is larger, occupying a larger percentage of space than its counterpart in tianmian.

what strikes me in the two apartments is the orientation of the two apartments. tianmian was clearly designed for daily living, middle management worker. however, given the rent in tianmian gardens, the one and two bedroom apartments were regularly rented as office space. indeed, i lived across the hall from a dentist. in contrast, city garden is designed for upscale young chinese and international business people; city square also provides service apartment rentals.

also, city square is located across the street from the mix-c mall (in the west) and caiwuwei village (in the east). i’ll say more about caiwuwei in another post, what i want to emphasize in this post is that it’s possible to buy western food in the mix-c. all kinds of cheese and granola and chocolate bars are available, along with nicely packaged and accordingly overpriced soy milk and other chinese food products. in contrast, in tianmian it was possible–but only possible–to buy fresh vegetables, fresh meet, and chinese food products at relatively cheap prices. these foods and prices are available in caiwuwei.

more interestingly, its not simply that the furnishings are higher end in city square, but also that the health club in city square facilitates the cultivation of skulpted and shiny bodies. yesterday, while drinking fresh carrot juice in the 9th floor health club, i felt like i was living in a korean soap opera. one after another, young and toned bodies, clothed in the latest fashion walked past on their way to the weight room and swimming pool. one headed to a private pilates lesson. it’s like being at my new yoga studio.

this move has reinforced my impression of ongoing stratification and differentiation in shenzhen. time and place. these bodies are less noticeable in tianmian, but i also think that even five years ago there were fewer of them, before the construction of city square and like complexes. time and place, indeed. i now live amongst the young upwardly mobile and most-sculpted class of global managers.

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