bitou, or the spatial consequences of deindustrialization

In the early spring, I arrived at the Songgang bus stop, “under the bridge”–a pedestrian overpass on the G107 expressway. The stop teemed with migrant workers and motorcycle cabbies, who screamed, “Where are you going?”

I jumped on the back of a motorcycle and zipped across proper roads until we came to the dirt road that leads into Bitou Village, a small village located on the southern banks of the Dongbao River, which separates Shenzhen and Dongguan. According to historical records, Bitou was once a relatively prosperous village within local marketing networks. However, by 1980 the village had been more or less abandoned, and the new village is itself in various stages of disrepair with unregulated, low-skill manufacturing on the river banks.

In Bitou, factory space is advertised at 2 rmb per square meter, but there are no takers because tomorrow (June 28, 2016) the number 11 subway line opens. The line covers 51.9 kilometers in 55 minutes–a high speed connection that has made real estate development more profitable than manufacturing near subway stations. Suddenly, building owners are waiting to be bought out, while illegal buildings (built with an eye to taking advantage of the subway) have been left incomplete, abandoned before they were ever inhabited.

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