When I first moved to Shenzhen in 1995, I lived at Shenzhen University, which at the time was located on the northern banks of Shenzhen Bay and boasted oyster farming on just beyond its campus border. In fact, for the first decade that I was in Shenzhen (1995-2005), land reclamation and the reconstruction of the coastline was one of the major ongoing infrastructure projects, even as the city shifted its economic emphasis from manufacturing to innovation. So for over a decade, I walked reclaimed land. As the landfill settled, grass grew, squatters came and went, and the city itself “washed its feet and stepped on land,” an expression that was used in the 1990s to describe the transformation of farmers into urban residents. Locally, the expression referred to how local villagers left their paddies and fish ponds to become landlords, while in terms of migrants, it referred to migrant workers who left their home villages to work in factories. Continue reading
Several days ago, I walked from Coastal City (海岸城) to Shenzhen Talent Park (深圳人才公园). Previous walks–now long ago and far away, and besides that was a different city–had me wandering the reclaimed land behind Coastal City. However, the new coastline is as firmly in place as anything on shifting sands. What’s more, its a popular destination for families and this popularity deserves comment. After all, people are walking from the old new coastline (at roughly Houhaibin Road) to its newest coastline, a walk that takes at least fifteen minutes one way. Below are images that give a sense of the layout of the new park. In the maps, the purple line is Houhaibin Road, the approximate old new coastline. Continue reading
On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, Handshake 302 sent out a call for fifteen participants to join the first chapter of “Urban Flesh and Bones: Rediscovering Shenzhen’s Cultural Geography” series of walking tours. This chapter is called “What water did you drink?” and looked at how infrastructural relationships–pipes and container ports, for example–have replaced more immediate relationships–wells and small docks–in the local cultural geography. Kind of esoteric topic for a walking tour, but in less than an hour, the event was already completely booked! Who knew Shenzhen residents were so interested in esoteric takes on the city’s cultural geography? By Thursday afternoon, however, we were worried, would super typhoon Mangkhut land on Saturday, forcing us to cancel the event? However, the weather gods were with us, and Saturday morning was bright sun and blue skies—a perfect day for exploring the Shenzhen’s cultural history from the perspective of “water.” Continue reading
If Cyber City housed the National Capital Region’s elites and their high-culture status, the city’s middling aspirations have taken root just outside the northern edge of Old Delhi. On our final morning of field research, we traced the stubborn history of Delhi’s entrepreneurs on its first metro line. Older metro routes to get people, revolts against it. Placed on broad roads and convenient for construction. With changing technology and demands for metro they are taken tracks and station to people. So more risks in terms of construction. Cut through neighborhoods to build tracks. Red and yellow were first. To get away from politics of naming got exceptions to archaeological laws, land acquisition laws. Making money through real estate. 2010 women only. Indeed, the stations of the metro not only offer a sociology of the living city, but also comprise a catalogue of shifting allegiances, reminding us that Southasia stretches northwest from the capital region into Bangladesh and Afghanistan, hinting at the deep trade networks that once sutured the ancient civilizations of Eurasia and their redeployment toward the adhoc construction of the modern nation state, as well as the ways in which regional histories and cultures meet like opposing currents, creating whirlpools. Most often the whirlpools of everyday life are very small, like when a bathtub drains. But sometimes, maelstroms form and when the wind calms, the survivors wash ashore in another world.
It’s instructive to jump off the number 11 subway line, once its passed the airport station. In Bao’an District, the No 11 line runs parallel to Bao’an Road, which delineates the inner border between the older, historic village settlements and their industrial parks. East of Bao’an Road, one heads toward the Pearl River, land reclamation, and scattered reminders of this deeper history. West of Bao’an Road, one heads through large industrial parks toward National expressway G107, which was the road that first connected the original Special Zone to Guangzhou via Songgang (images of a 2008 walk, here). At Nantou Checkpoint, National Highway 107 becomes Shannan Road and a fast track to the inner district real estate boom. Continue reading
Gentrification in Shenzhen not only means displacing the working poor, but also rescaling the city. In Buji, the process has just begun and thus the palatable violence of this transformation is more visible than it is in the inner districts, where neoliberal environments have a more polished veneer. The images below highlight the extent to which the construction of massive public infrastructure effectively isolates neighborhoods and privileges car-owners.
It’s true, in searching for statistics about how much cement has been used in Shenzhen (I keep hoping some social statistically minded engineer will do the calculations), I stumbled across China’s cement web. One of the articles, relevant to aforesaid search, was the clinker production capacity of China’s ten largest cement producers in 2011.
As of Jan 1, 2012, China’s big cement ten are, in order: Hailuo (海螺水泥)、Southern (南方水泥)、China United (中联水泥)、China Resources (华润水泥)、Sinoma (中材集团)、Hebei East (冀东水泥) 、TCC (台泥水泥)、Sunnsy (山水集团)、Huaxin (华新水泥)、and Hongshi (红狮集团). Together they have the capacity to produce just under 581 million tons of clinker, annually. Just how much can be built with all that cement? Well, the Empire State Building weighs in at 370,000 tons. This means that ten Chinese cement factories produce the mass equivalent of 1,570 Empire State Buildings. Continue reading