A week in Delhi, thinking about globalizing urbanization and its proliferating urbanisms with the wonderful team at the Centre for Policy Research and colleague Fu Na from Shenzhen Center for Design. Currently, untangling so many thoughts about infrastructure, waste generation, generosity, desire and inequality, heat, color and spice, traveling impressions of china, gender, aggression, and the mental barbed wire necessary to construct “Delhi” out of a few days walking tour. This trip also has me noticing the stories that I notice, some documented, below.
Shenzhen’s most recent Party Secretary, Ma Xingrui (马兴瑞) infamously told Shenzhen and its boosters to get over the jubilation for its recent rise in international prestige. On the one hand, there is something snarky and mean spirited about Party Secretary Ma’s scolding. After all, Shenzhen’s raison d’etre has been to make a place for itself in the emergent world order and for most of its existence, Shenzhen has been ignored by Beijing-centric views of China (both in and outside China). On the other had, many agree with his assessment that Shenzhen is not yet a first rank world city.
The new Party Secretary’s surname—Ma—is a homophone with the character for “scold / tell off” (骂)”. In that spirit, the OCT Lifestyle website put out an article in which Shenzhen clearly comes in second behind world class cities such as Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore. With Beijing the comparison is about the internet. Hong Kong stands for level of globalization, Taiwan a sense of well-being, Japan for professionalism, and Singapore for the ability to attract and keep talent. In other words, Shenzhen wants to be best at all of that, which may in fact be its charm—composite rather than first rank across categories. Continue reading
Shenzhen is gearing up for the Maker Faire, and clearly there’s a bit more than hype in the mix. Seems all sorts of folks are interested in connecting to larger markets via “the Silicon Valley of hardware” — Shenzhen. Of note du jour: the Hax Accelerator Program:
How It Works: Selected teams relocate to our offices in Shenzhen, China for 111 days, where they’ll finalize prototypes and learn to scale their businesses with the help of our awesome full-time staff and extensive mentor network.
Each week, you’ll meet with advisors who will offer feedback on your team’s evolving strategy and prototypes, as well as provide valuable insight about how to scale a company in terms of manufacturing, supply chain management and distribution.
The final 2 weeks of the program will be spent refining your pitch, in preparation for our demo day showcase and launch event in San Francisco. Then it’s time to get some press, meet with investors, and (optionally) kick off a killer crowdfunding campaign!
Yesterday at MoMA I saw an exhibition curated by the Network Architecture Lab, Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms For Expanding Mega-Cities. The exhibition struck me as very house of representatives with archi-biennale characteristics; the curators chose a representative city from each continent and then presented these cities through blow-up charts and video. Thus: NYC represented North America; Rio represent South America; Istanbul represented Europe; Lagos represented Africa; Hong Kong represented East Asia, and; Mumbai represented the Indian subcontinent. More interestingly, perhaps, the museum layout, especially in context of the third floor’s permanent architecture exhibitions, had me thinking about the looming, unrecognized figure of China and how we need to re-think not only urbanization, but also the critical frameworks in which we think about mega-cities. Continue reading
Yesterday I had the honor and pleasure of participating Shenzhen: From Factory of the World to World City, a conference hosted by the International New Town Institute. What did I learn? Continue reading
We hear stories of forced evictions and demolitions from Meizhou. These simple and brutal stories of State violence in order to dispossess peasants of their traditional landholdings sound all too familiar. The enemy is fast, omnipresent, and faceless, found in whispered rumors and chronic anxiety. The peasants’ furious screams and disjointed protests do not clarify the situation, but instead seem to work against them, further alienating them from urbane cool and ironic discourse.
Consider, for example, the tale of a 70+ grandma who had refused to sign over her land rights and sell her home. She occupied her home to protect her home. However, one day she needed to go shopping for a few everyday necessities because there was no one at home to help her. Less than an hour later when she returned home, “they” had already demolished her house. She had nowhere to go and nothing to bring with her. One can only imagine what she feels watching bulldozers raze the material conditions of her life. Suddenly, she is stripped to existential despair and helplessness in the face of relentless progress.
Yesterday I attended a screening of ongoing documentation of the situation in Meizhou. The salon was hosted by Shi Jie (in photo), a young documentary filmmaker currently based in Shenzhen. He has been documenting naratives of ongoing dispossession, bearing witness to the injustice of rural urbanization and concomitant suffering. First story online (in Hakka with Chinese subtitles). Shi Jie held the salon to discuss strategies to create solidarity between Shenzhen youth–especially young Hakka migrants–and the Meizhou peasants.
The conversation brought up three issues: (1) the need for peasants to articulate their demands in a more “urban” language, such as historic preservation or environmental conservation because the story of forced evictions and land dispossession was too common to become a media focus; (2) the need for the film makers to map the competing interests, including government dependence on land sales to meet their budget, the leading developers and the scale of investment;and (3) the need for the film makers to state their aims clearly, who was their intended audience and to what end?
Shijie’s savvy use of social media notwithstanding it is apparent that the heart of his effort is small, local and face-to-face interactions where he raises a fourth issue: how might those of us in Shenzhen is how to ameliorate an untenable situation?