The second station on the Chinese side of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, Buji was an important Hakka market town that during the early years of reform was a center of manufacturing. Today, Buji is a street office (办事处) with an estimated population of over one million. Most Buji families live in an urban village and their children attend minban (民办) schools. A minban school is owned and operated by private companies, filling educational needs that are not met by the public school system. Elite minbans tend to be international and position graduates for university abroad. However, the most common type of minban school in Shenzhen is the urban village minban, which has been set up to educate children who are ineligible for a public education. The most common reason for being ineligible for a public education are hukou related; often families are not long-term residents of the city, which means their children are only eligible for public education back home, or the child was born outside the family planning policy and the parents cannot afford the fines to send the child to public school.
I forgot to post this short introduction to the redistricting of Bao’an County into Shenzhen Municipality, and subsequently into the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and its suburbs or outer districts.
On Thursday, I joined a group of architects and students from the Future Cities Laboratory on a rainy guanwai trek along Bulong Road, which parallels the second line. This particular trek interests because it hints at generations of ongoing cultural transformation both as industrial manufacturing has spread and as Cantonese and Hakka urban villages have renegotiated collectives identities over the past 150 years.
We departed from Huaqiangbei and crossed at the former Buji Checkpoint, which today has been partially cleared to make room for the Buji subway station (Longgang Line) although cars still lined up to pass through check booths. Directly north of the erxian boundary, Xiawei Village (吓围村) handshakes huddle tightly, giving the impression of an ordinary new South China village. However, the entry gate and main hall of Xiawei’s ancestral hall remain, suggesting that at some point the village had enough collective funds to erect a substantial building. According to an old worker who was organizing collected paper products in the compound plaza, villagers continue to burn incense for ancestors during the Spring Festival.
We then headed west to the precinct headquarters of Shiyan. During the Mao-era, this area also served as the headquarters of Shiyan Commune. Located between the Kowloon-Canton railroad and Guangzhou Shenzhen corridors, Shiyan has remained relatively poor when compared to precinct headquarters at Buji or Shajing, for example. Nevertheless, it has Mao-era flat housing, Reform era factories, and two generations of single-family homes and handshakes. More to today’s point about Hakka borderlands, Shiyan is also interesting because it is located along Baoan County’s traditional border between Cantonese and Hakka cultural regions. Thus, although the Ye Ancestral Hall boasts Hakka exhortations of Confucian morality, the structure itself, like many of the areas older flat buildings are Cantonese style.
At first glance, Shenzhen’s 2010-2020 Comprehensive Plan seems a writhing mass of blue snakes and bright hotspots.
However, by simplifying the Comprehensive Plan in terms of the historical relationship between political boundaries and and early infrastructure in Shenzhen development, I came up with the following grid of borders and corridors, which explains the Plan’s horizontal flows, the connections to Hong Kong, and investment initiatives in New District hubs:
Three borders have enabled urbanization in Shenzhen: the border with Hong Kong, the second line, and the city limits, which abut Dongguan in the northwest and Huizhou in the northeast. Two economic corridors have facilitated Shenzhen’s growth: the Guangshen highway corridor and the Kowloon-Canton Railway. The Guangshen highway corridor parallels the area’s riparian trade routes, which were the means of Han expansion from Guangzhou southwardly on the Pearl River and its tributaries. The KCR, of course, was the British attempt to preempt and redirect the PRD’s extensive trade network.
This grid enters everyday conversation through place name protocols. For example, no one today refers to the “second line”, which evokes the yesteryears of early reform. In contrast, ever since the boundaries of the SEZ have been made coterminous with city limits, we now speak of guannei and guanwai, or “inside the gate” and “outside the gate”, respectively. Interestingly, however, I rarely hear people speak of the guanwai area well east of the railroad as “guanwai”, instead, it is more common to refer to that part of Shenzhen as “the east”.
In fact, the SEZ’s historically most important hubs are all located on this grid. Luohu/ Dongmen is the first stop on the Chinese side of the railroad, while Buji was the first stop on the guanwai side of the second line. Likewise, Shekou was the end of the old riparian trade network, activating Delta resources. Bao’an District government is found just over the guanwai side of the Guangshen highway corridor and Shajing Wanfeng Village, once called “the first village in the south” occupies the area just south of Dongguan on the Guangshen Highway corridor. Given the importance of political territorializations and infrastructure to development, it is unsurprising that the poorest areas in Shenzhen are either in (a) the guanwai area between the railroad and highway corridors (Shiyan and Guangming) or (b) the East. With the exception of Guangming, all of Shenzhen’s other three new districts — Pingshan, Longhua, and Dapeng — are located in the east, far from easy access to the railroad, let alone the Pearl River and riparian access to Guangzhou.
In the new Comprehensive Plan the old hubs appear renamed, but their functions unchanged. The Guangshen corridor has been resutured to the Pearl River through the Qianhai Center. The Luohu/ Dongmen railroad corridor has been interestingly diverted into two streams, one that enters guannei at Huanggang/ Lok Ma Chau and leaves guanwai through Guangming and a second that enters guannei at Luohu and then exits guanwai through Longgang. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has been absorbed/ extended into the Shenzhen administrative apparatus at both the Lok Ma Chau Loop and Qianhai Cooperation Zone, begging the question: will the next Comprehensive adjustment will be political integration of the two cities and the re-establishment of a first or second line at Shenzhen city limits? Indeed, the question doesn’t seem too far-fetched when we recall that for 5 months in 1997, the transition government for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Zone met in Shenzhen.
Walked with Emma Ma and her father, Mike along Shenzhen’s northern loop expressway (北环大道) from the Nantou Checkpoint to the northern entrance of Zhongshan Park. Our path followed the remains of the second line (二线), the boundary that once divided Shenzhen into the SEZ and New Bao’an County. Cobbled together out of debris and plastic poster banners, a makeshift tent settlement hovers atop the obsolescent wall and a border guard platform falls apart. A section of the former border zone has been converted to a logistics depot for the Nanshan Oil company. Ironic, of course. Across the street in Zhongshan Park, the Ming Dynasty remains of the Nantou City wall have been designated cultural heritage. Impressions of the second line, below.
Located in Guangming New District (光明新区), Lou Village has the largest area of any in Shenzhen and a villager population of 4,000. Of course, it is no longer Lou Village but Lou Village Neighborhood (楼村居委会) and its population is no longer under 5,000 — and therein lies today’s tale.
At the 15th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, the second line (二线) still divided Shenzhen into two distinct administrative structures, the SEZ (now called guannei or “inside the gate”) and Baoan and Longgang Districts (now called guanwai or “outside the gate”). The year was 1995 and Baoan and Longgang District governments had been built and staffed, 25 urban markets soon to be precincts (镇 into 街道办事处) had been designated, and consequently the work of incorporating over 200 guanwai villages into the municipal apparatus begun. Economic advancement was an important aspect of political incorporation precisely because 15 years into reform, Shenzhen had discovered that “allowing a few to get rich first (让一部分人先富裕起来)” undermined social stability. Continue reading
Much of Shenzhen’s informal history is, unsurprisingly perhaps, being written on blogs and weibo. However, websites dedicated to real estate, ranging from analysis to agency offerings are not usually considered to be history writing. Nevertheless, these websites provide insite into the negotiation of value as people transform labor and desire into homes and family life. To give a sense of the historical content of these websites as well as how they produce knowledge about the city, I’ve translated a sampling from a real estate purchasing and rental keywords post by 王猴猴.
Just an editorial note: when reading these keywords it is important to hear what has not been said. Policy criticisms and social problems remain implicit in Wang Houhou’s explanations and evaluations. I have thus added a few exegetical notes, which do not exhaust possible interpretations, but rather point to other readings. I encourage readers to add their own interpretations and thereby enrich the keywords.
盘点1995～2005深圳地产十年关键词 Inventory of Shenzhen Real Estate Keywords, 1995-2005 (Wang Houhou)
1995 购房入户 (Buy a house, get Shenzhen hukou) In order to stimulate citizens to purchase homes and also to further economic development in a slow house market, Chinese local governments promulgated real estate development policies and measures. The prime example of these policies came in 1995, when the Shenzhen government approved a measure that allowed anyone who bought a house outside the second line [in Baoan or Longgang District] was eligible for three Shenzhen hukous. [In 1995 Baoan and Longgang were still under rural administration and the Second Line was still enforced. Consequently, this law stimulated building at Second Line checkpoints, notably Buji and Meilin, where people could buy a Shenzhen hukou and still get to work easily.] Continue reading