about urban villages…

On May 26, I participated in a municipal CPPCC event with the intimate title 《城中村——那些事儿》. The event name might be translated as “What’s happening in our urban villages?” PCC, of course, stands for Political Consultative Conference (政协), which has an advisory role to the government. Continue reading

urban flesh and bones: huaqiangbei

On Saturday April 27, Handshake 302 led fifteen curious guests on a full-day discovery of Huaqiangbei from perspective of the historic Shangbu Industrial Park. The organization of the tour emphasized the intimate stories behind the emergence of Huaqiangbei as a global landmark. After all, Huaqiangbei did not emerge as fully formed nexus in a global network of technological innovation, but rather formed in the ongoing evolution of Shenzhen’s cultural geography. Continue reading

SZ8X802//The_Myriad_Transformations//City on the Fill

The next installment in the Myriad Transformations, “City on the Fill” is a series of riffs on land reclamation, both as an important feature of Shenzhen’s cultural ecology and as a metaphor for the replacement of southern Chinese culture with northern norms. 

2002

This image of the Shenzhen Bay coastline was taken behind the south gate of Shenzhen University in 2002. Squatters occupied the landfill and planted small vegetable gardens and raised chickens near their houses. Most worked in the informal economy, sorting garbage, working on nearby construction sites, and cultivating the oyster and fish farms that would be shut down in 2006. Today, the water  has been reclaimed and is part of the Hi-Tech corridor that connects the Tencent Headquarters to University town via Shenzhen University, branch campuses of Hong Kong universities, and office buildings of Shenzhen and China’s top hi-tech companies. Indeed, this area was the site of the Shenzhen Maker Faire, 2015. The building under construction in the background is the Yangri Wanpan (洋日湾畔)estates, next to the Coastal City Shopping Mall complex. However, what strikes me more than the “that was then feeling” of a landscape transformed is the squatters’ clothing; even in 2002, when Shenzhen was still a manufacturing city, squatters would have difficulty finding jobs in the formal economy where appearance was part of gaining employment.

2015

This is the Hi-Tech area, circa 2015. The white buildings in the left of the photograph comprise the Yangri Wanpan housing estates, which were under construction (and considered seafront property) in 2002. In 2015, the Hi-Tech area was the site of the Shenzhen Maker Faire, shown in the Chaihuo clip, below:

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everyday globalization

Current maps to Huaqiangbei suggest a state-of-the-art maker experience. High tech and high concept, these representations would have you forget how ordinary, how banal globalization actually is. The stuff of everyday life.

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Shuiwei through an Anthropologist’s Eyes

On March 23 and March 24, Handshake 302 brought the “Urban Flesh and Bones: Futian Edition” project to Shuiwei—one of our favorite urban villages. The Saturday tour was in Chinese and the Sunday tour was in English, but both tours were fully booked and even though the weather was overcast, everyone showed up. In fact, on Saturday afternoon, Handshake 302 led the tour in the rain!

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six year reprieve?

So, many of you know that Shenzhen has been debating what to do about urban villages. Half of the city’s population lives in one village or another, most of the city’s population has lived in a village at one point in their lives, and millions have set up mom & pops in a village, providing for themselves and their families through small capital investments. Just recently, the city approved the “Shenzhen Urban Village (Old Village) Comprehensive Remediation Plan (2019-2025) (《深圳市城中村(旧村)综合整治总体规划(2019-2025)》).” The key point, of course, is that the city is now choosing to remediate and upgrade village spaces, rather than demolishing and evicting residents. Continue reading

guomao: how quickly we forget

The image that many have of Shenzhen is a collection of state-of-the-art buildings because for years, these towers have represented the city and its progress. These buildings, of course, not only represent important state-owned enterprises in the Shenzhen landscape (China Merchants and China Resources, for example), but also provide a particular map to the city: the downtown investment area, Huaqiangbei electronic markets, Overseas Chinese Town, the recently opened Hi-Tech area along Shenzhen Bay, and the Dameisha beach. The latest skyline montage includes architecture from all over the city (labeled to the best of my ability):

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