half-urban guangzhou

These past two days, I have been in Leming, a mountain village located in the northern reaches of Guangzhou. It’s a site where one confronts the unevenness of development, where artists and environmentalists are trying to do something meaningful with what remains after the most of the village’s young people have left for factories in “Guangzhou” proper. Continue reading

The Value of Urban Villages

US American real estate developers chant, “location, location, location.” In Shenzhen, primary locations open for development are actually urban villages slated for old village renovation — redevelopments that involve the final transfer of village held property to the Municipality.

In a Jingbao article on the future of Nanshan District, Li Xiaogan, recently appointed Nanshan District Secretary, noted for example, “In constructing a global district and promoting urban renovation, Nanshan District will have several advantages over the next few years. First, the largest urban renovation project in Guangdong Province – Dachong Urban Village, with a total project area of 683,000 square meters; second, the urban renovation project for the five villages of Baishizhou in Shahe, which is currently being planned, also has an area of over 650,000 square meters, and is again one of the largest in the Province; third, located in the north of the District, the three Shuiyuan villages are within the water conservation and ecological conservation red lines, and are thus relatively backward, however, they are also now in the planning stage of development; forth, the old Xili Market, which we are planning to convert to an urban complex; fifth, the banks of the Shahe River, where we will take international bids to create an ecological cultural corridor, and; six, Nanshan Old City, which with everyone’s support we hope to return to its status as Shenzhen’s historical and cultural root, by resituating all residents and completely rebuilding.”

Recent impressions of Baishizhou, below:

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What’s the difference between Shenzhen and a 直辖市?

直辖市 means “directly governed city”. There are four directly governed cities in China — Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing. The difference between a directly governed city and a special zone (特区) like Shenzhen is political ranking. Directly governed cities have the same political rank as a province. This means that directly governed cities have access to resources and policies that other cities do not.

Shenzhen is a sub-provincial city, which means it is subordinate to Guangdong Province. As a Special Zone, Shenzhen has some economic exceptions, however, in terms of political planning and any kind of social innovation, Shenzhen must operate within the purview of Guangzhou. Consequently, the SEZ has repeatedly chosen to frame any kind of social transformation in terms of “economic” reform.

From the outside looking in, Shenzhen seems different, certainly the most neoliberal of China’s large cities. But from the inside, Shenzhen just seems nouveau riche, a better version of the country’s second tier cities, but not a first tier city like Beijing or Shanghai. Or even Guangzhou. Continue reading