shenzhen comes out in favor of new attitude toward urban villages

It’s been a long time coming. Or not. Roughly a decade after Shenzhen targeted urban villages as “dirty, chaotic, and substandard” and less than five years after Gangxia changed how we thought about compensation, the official Shenzhen press has indicated its time for the city to change how it thinks about urban villages. Continue reading

more on urban villages (with pictures)!

Folks interested in high density living in Shenzhen’s urban villages have been creating some great images about how space works across different scales. Below, a sampling from around the globe. Follow links to reports.

Li.Zhang2-2

From Li Zhang’s overview of urban villages, with a focus on Gangxia.

Continue reading

week in review: Sunday October 11 through Saturday October 17

I’ve decided to try posting weekly reviews; I’ve been busy, but missed the blog. I’m hoping that by scheduling a week in review post, I’ll reach a happy medium. Today, I’m publishing a short review, after today, I will be publishing the week in review on Friday mornings, Beijing standard time, which is conveniently the standard time for the whole country!

Bureaucratic hoop jumping:

Last week to extend my visa, I went to the police department. It is necessary to fill out the forms online, but those forms can only be accessed in the building. However, before I was permitted to enter my data, I had to show one of the officers that my documents were complete. They weren’t, so I went upstairs to make a photocopy. After I filled in the form, online, I took a picture of the screen so that an officer could print out my application by reading the registration number. This is necessary because it is impossible to enter more than one letter (A B C) in the line. Then I got my number and waited. Everything was okay, except that I had to bring my husband to the police department to fill our a guarantee letter that day, other wise I would have to do it again. We persevered and documents were submitted and accepted. Continue reading

gangxia: walking the remaining village

Walked through the remaining section of Gangxia and noticed the strong contrasts of a sunny day: bright and dark, sun and shadows smack in the middle of Shenzhen’s Central axis. Check it out:

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impressions, futian

The other day, I walked from Huaqiangbei through Gangxia and Xinzhou, where I hooked back to Shuiwei via Huanggang Park, a wonderfully unexpected urban oasis. Today, I’m uploading impressions of the diverse complexity that characterizes Futian Distict, which is home to Huaqiangbei, the central business district, and some of the most well-planned urban villages in the city.

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yumin village: changing meanings of “farmer housing”

Just recently got my paws on “The History of Yumin Village (渔民村村史)”. Yumin Village, of course, was the village that Deng Xiaoping visited in 1984, during his first inspection trip to the SEZs. Xi Jinping followed up with a visit in 2012. So yes, this village has played an important symbolic role both in the ideological construction of post-Mao society and in representations of  pre-reform Shenzhen Bao’an County. What struck me as I flipped through the pages was how this transformation can be readily represented in the changing typology of “farmer housing (农民房)”. Continue reading

piecework: replacing urban villages with chimerican dreams

So this week is going by in a raze of urban village sections (片区). It seems that given the flat out difficulty of achieving 100% sign-off on property transfer and compensation packages, government planners and their developer agents are targeting sections of urban village for urban renewal (instead of entire villages). These sections (a) border major traffic arteries and (b) have relatively simple property relations. I also heard yesterday that in Gangxia, for example, the village was subdivided into six sections and once there was 100% sign-off in a section, it went. This would in part explain the protracted raze-scape that characterized Gangxia for several years. Continue reading

population number games

There are three resident statuses in Shenzhen: Shenzhen hukou, long term residence permit (常住证), and illegal residents or the floating population (流动人口). In turn, these different statuses are reflected in two kinds of population statistics: the long term population (常住人口) and the administrative population (管理人口).  The long term population is divided into those residents with hukou and those with permits. The administrative population refers to the number of renters who have been registered at a local police station. In practice, the difference between the long term and administrative populations provides insight into how large the floating population is.

Here’s the rub: Cities and districts usually only release population statistics, even though the actual population is on record via individual precincts, which report their statistics to the District. In turn, reporting practices vary widely between districts, making it difficult to ascertain how many people actually live and work in a district, let alone in an urban village. Continue reading

statutory planning and opportunistic urbanization

How to interpret the following soundbite?

The spokesman for the Municpal Planning and Land Council stated that through 2010, the City had approved 96 proposals to raze 832.77 hectares and build on 637.08 dedicate hectares, and plans to build 32.77 million square meters of architecture.  市规划国土委有关负责人介绍,截至2010年,全市累计批准拆除重建类改造规划96项,涉及拆除用地面积约832.77公顷,建设用地面积约637.08公顷,规划建筑面积约3277万平方米。 Continue reading

what exactly is an urban village anyway?

Shenzhen’s urban villages confound easy categorization precisely because they are sites where Mainland Chinese distinctions between “farmers (农民)” and “city people (市民)” have been constantly negotiated and renegotiated for over thirty years.

In the 80s and early 90s, the question facing the Shenzhen government was: how to transfer collective land to urban work units (to establish urban patterns of property ownership) while providing villagers with a livelihood. The resolution to that problem took the form of “handshake buildings (握手楼)” and village level manufacturing and commerce. These villages were called “new villages (新村)” – as in “Guimiao New Village and Xiangnan New Village, for example. However, the economic success of both the new villages and the pace of Shenzhen’s growth has meant that new villages have constantly bumped up against more intensive forms of urban expansion. Consequently, since the mid-90s, the question facing Shenzhen’s government has been: how to integrate the new villages into the city. Suddenly, the government was pursuing a policy of “[urban] village renovation (旧村改新)”. Of course, the so-called “old villages” were in fact the “new villages” of the past decade. More tellingly, the “new villages” were now called “urban villages (城中村)”, an expression which might conjure images of a massive city surrounding and absorbing a small yet resistant village.

The project to renovate Gangxia [New] Village began in 1998 with a plan to construct the Shenzhen central axis along and through Gangxia. However, it was not until 2008 that the government began negotiating with residents of Gangxia Heyuan (岗厦河园片) to transfer land from villagers to city developers. By that time, Gangxia Heyuan had 580 buildings (mostly handshake buildings) and an estimated population of 70,000 people. Obviously, most of the 70,000 inhabitants were migrant workers and not Gangxia Villagers with landrights and property holdings. Nevertheless, the government had to begin a complicated process of negotiated the terms under which Gangxia Heyuan would be transferred from Gangxia [New Village / Juweihui – and there’s a whole ‘nother story told in another post] to Shenzhen City by way of Futian District.

The crux of the matter was, of course, how to define an equitable transfer because once Gangxia Heyuan became a part of the Central Axis it would cease being an “urban village” and become an “urban center”, with all the symbolic and economic capital implied. Consequently, city reps, the development company, and the Gangxia Heyuan villagers needed to work out the amount of ratio of replacement housing to actual housing and the compensation per meter of housing to which each villager was entitled. In the end, the ratio was established at 1:082 for first floor holdings and 1:088 for second story and above. Compensation was fixed at 12,800 per meter of housing space and 23,800 per meter of commercial space.

Inquiring minds want to know: just how much richer did some villagers become anyway? Well, it depended on how much housing one owned and where it was. A villager who owned one of the 580 buildings, which might have 6-800 square meters would be entitled to anywhere from 475-600 square meters of new housing and 7.5 million to 10.2 million rmb if they only owned residential space and much, much more if commercial. In total, there are figures as high as 9 billion rmb in compensation flying through the rumor mill.

Here’s the rub. All this money seems like a lot until we go back and start factoring in the 70,000 migrant workers and several thousand Gangxia villagers who had unequal access to handshake buildings less than 20 years ago. Thus, because Gangxia New Village included unequal redistributions of handshake buildings and landuse rights, some villagers are now much much richer than others. Rumor has it that one such villager had 6,000 square meters of space, while several others had 3,000 square meters. All told (in hushed voices, of course) Gangxia is rumored to have over 20 billionaires and at least 10 residents with over 10 million in property holdings.

And it doesn’t stop there. None of this takes into account how much the real estate developers are going to earn off the wheeling and dealing that re-building Gangxia into Central Axis luxury condos, high-end commercial areas, and business centers. There are a few non-villagers who will become even richer than the few Gangxia billionaires.

So yes, urban village renovation is not only creating new landscapes, but also accelerating the pace of economic polarization in Shenzhen.

If we include Maoist attempts to ameliorate differences between rural and urban settlements, we’re looking at over sixty years of concerted negotiation of Chinese identity as a debate about rural (tradition) versus urban (modernity). Such that its possible to think of the past 100-odd years of Chinese modernization as a process of rural urbanization and concomitant forms of inequality, legislated, negotiated, and otherwise.

For the curious, the Chinese web has facts, figures, and rumors: here, here, and here.