I have been used to thinking of the Cultural Revolution as the immediate backdrop to the ideological transformations initiated by the establishment of Shenzhen. However, as I was reacquainting myself with the cultural geography of Huaqiangbei I came across the Zhenhua Industries sign on Zhenxing Road. The logo is a throwback to Third Front industrialization, when futurist aesthetics still informed nationalist dreams. But what actually caught my eye was Jiang Zenmin’s calligraphy; by providing the calligraphy (题词) for this enterprise, the former General Secretary showed explicit support for the manufacturing company. After all, the most famous example of Jiang Zemin’s calligraphy in Shenzhen was written for Window of the World in 1994, as part of Overseas Chinese Town’s transition to leisure and tourism. So I was curious: when and how did he actively support Zhen Hua specifically and the construction of the Shangbu Industrial Zone more generally?
Just finished reading Ting Chen’s A State beyond the State: Shenzhen and the Transformation of Urban China, which maps how land was assigned and developed over the course of 35 years of development in Shenzhen. One of my favorite sections in the book tracks the transformation of Shahe State Farm, pre-1979 Bao’an County’s only danwei into Baishizhou, the city’s most iconic urban village. Indeed, Chen’s meticulous maps suggest how the area has mediated rural-urban conditions since 1959, when the farm was established. Continue reading
Much of what I know about Shenzhen, I know through hearsay. How much might be confirmed through other sources — people, reports, maps, or books, for example — is a methodological question. Sometimes I can track down confirmation, other times I can’t. What I do know, however, is that most folks are willing to talk about other people’s affairs, even when not willing to disclose anything about themselves. The other day, I heard a story about the Baoping Community compound and here’s how it goes:
Built in the area around the train station and then moving north parallel to the train tracks, the earliest residences for Shenzhen cadres were small, danwei compounds. In 1980ish, the Xili Industry and Trade Enterprise bought land rights from Caiwuwei Village and built a small compound along what became Heping Road, just east of the railway. Xili went out of business and Shenzhen Travel took over the compound. However, Shenzhen began privatizing danwei houses in 1988, a full ten years before the rest of the country. Thus, China Travel employees who had housing in the residential area were able to purchase their benefit housing (福利房) at cost.
Sometime after privatization, the residential compound was renamed, Baoping. Old and small, the residential compound is no longer upscale housing. Instead, most of the homes are shared rentals (合租), in which each bedroom is rented out and then the kitchen, bathroom, and living spaces are shared. Continue reading
Visited OCT Bay (欢乐海岸) this afternoon. OCT Bay is the third Shenzhen development of “The New OCT‘” to expand and develop their brand throughout China. The first effort was OCT (now OCT Loft) and the second was OCT East. OCT Bay’s advertising slogans suggest the state-owned enterprise’s ambitions to provide fantasy shopping experiences, for example: Elegant Christmas, Fashionable New Year’s (风雅圣诞，时尚新年). However, their motto, Give Happiness a Coast (给欢乐一个海岸) is beyond ironic. Water light shows, an artificial lake, and boat rides on the winding river, notwithstanding, the entire complex is built on reclaimed land from Shenzhen Bay. In fact, the former coastline (at least a km inland) used to be edged with mangrove trees and, further into the bay (in the middle of the complex), oyster cultivation. Impressions, below: