Face Engineering Projects – 面子工程

I’ve learned a new expression, face engineering projects (面子工程), which I understand to mean large scale social mobilization that is just for show and will vanish with the project’s intended audience.

When I expressed that I just don’t understand all the fuss for the universiade, a friend explained that Beijing used the Olympics and became a new city; so the Asian Games helped Guangzhou, and; the World Expo vitalized Shanghai. Shenzhen, according to said friend, needs to take full advantage of the universiade to raise its status.

So I asked if she thought the improvements would continue after the universiade was over. “Maybe it’s all just face engineering projects (面子工程),” she said.  “However, even face engineering projects have their uses. Why  else would anyone invest all the way out in Longgang?”

Examples of universiade face engineering projects include: banner saturation of for the universiade, 500,000 universiade security personnel, and training of volunteers. Luohu, for example, has already recruited 10,000 volunteers andplans to raise that figure to 92,000. In addition, the City has targeted “three illegals foreigners (三非外国人)” who illegally entered the country, illegally reside and/or work in Shenzhen. Police efforts to rid the city of derelicts (闲杂人员) continue.

Soft face engineering my friend opined was useless because after the Universiade of course the derelicts (闲杂人员) would return. However, investment in infrastructure and residential neighborhoods was a form of hard investment that might have long-term consequences for the less developed areas of the city. The point, she reminded me, was to distinguish between soft and hard investments and see face engineering as an opportunity that might benefit more than city officials.

Indeed, Longgang is one of the poorer Districts in Shenzhen. Of its actual development plan, only 1/3 of basic infrastructure had been put in, and the District lacks educational, sanitation, and cultural resources, as well as basic water and electrical connections — the seven connections and one leveling missed Longgang. As part of the Universiade push, the number 3 metro line has been completed, as has the Shenzhen – Huizhou Highway and other roads in the Longgang District Center. Nevertheless, according to recent reports, Universiade Village and complexes constitute 25% of the District’s total infrastructure; the rest of the District remains noticeably rural and not yet under construction.

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