Thoughts on Shenzhen’s New New Districts: Longhua and Dapeng

This past week, when the Center brought the country’s 3,300 provincial, municipal, and county members of the Politics and Law Committee (政法委) to Beijing to learn “what to do and how to do it,” they did so to strengthen top-down unity, or the line from the Center (中央) to the “local (地方)”. Party control of the Politics and Law Committee means that it directly controls the writing of laws, their interpretation, and enforcement. As far as we know, Zhou Yong “Noodle Master” Kang remains the Chair of the National Committee. We hypothesize that Hu Jintao was critical to making the decision to convene a Politics and Law Committee meeting and what would be taught there. Ergo, we are waiting to see whose line actual becomes the standard that will be brought back to Local governments, like Shenzhen.

How does this administrative apparatus shape the possibility of progressive social transformation in Shenzhen?

One way to answer the question is to think of all the districting and redistricting and micro-districting and statutory planning that create what the Municipality spins as Shenzhen’s “Industry First” as ways of side-stepping Center intervention and oversight by giving investors in hi-tech manufacturing, logistics, finance, and cultural industry preferential policies without any kind of political reform. Continue reading

三洲田村:Narrating the Shen Kong border

So, review of Thirty Years of Shenzhen Villages continues from Episode 7 because for some yet-to-be-ascertained reason, episodes 5 and 6 aren’t available on youku net.

In 2005, construction workers unearthed a 10 kilometer section of the ancient tea route (茶马古道). This road once linked eastern Shenzhen to the new territories, more importantly (for the sake of narrating the Shen Kong border), this road connected to Sanzhoutian Village (三洲田村, literally “Peninsula Paddy Village”), where Sun Yat Sen (孙中山) lead the Sanzhoutian First Uprising (三洲田首义). In retrospect, Sanzhoutian became known as the first explosion of the Gengzi Incident (庚子事件), protesting the Boxer Indemnity that the eight colonial powers imposed on the Qing Dynasty.

Sanzhoutian is a rich symbol in Shenzhen history because it provides deep historic links between the SEZ and Hong Kong at multiple levels. Continue reading

statutory planning and opportunistic urbanization

How to interpret the following soundbite?

The spokesman for the Municpal Planning and Land Council stated that through 2010, the City had approved 96 proposals to raze 832.77 hectares and build on 637.08 dedicate hectares, and plans to build 32.77 million square meters of architecture.  市规划国土委有关负责人介绍,截至2010年,全市累计批准拆除重建类改造规划96项,涉及拆除用地面积约832.77公顷,建设用地面积约637.08公顷,规划建筑面积约3277万平方米。 Continue reading

shenzhen administrative structure

I’ve been making charts to organize my thinking. Below is an organizational chart of Shenzhen, circa 2010.

Also, a simplified version of the organizational relationship between the Central government and local governments. Guangdong is the provincial local; Shenzhen is a sub-provincial city, however, as an SEZ, Shenzhen has all sorts of legal privileges that provinces and direct cities do not.

wutong mountain


wutong mountain

Originally uploaded by maryannodonnell

Went to a wedding yesterday at the Wutong Restaurant (梧桐山酒楼) in Shatoujiao, Yantian District. The wedding itself was fun and I’m grateful for the opportunity it gave me to visit Shaotoujiao, one of the more interesting parts of the city.

Shatoujiao is famous because its the location of Chung Ying Street (中英街), which explicitly actualized the One Country, Two Systems policy with Chinese stores on the southern side of the street and British stores on the northern side. For the historically minded, you can also look at boundary stones from the March 16-18, 1899, when the boundary was marked at the end of the Second Opium War. Chung Ying Street is also one of Shenzhen’s 8 contemporary sights (a direct quotation of Xin’an County’s 8 classic sights). Continue reading

大鹏所城: on cultural history


dapeng suocheng inner garden

Once or twice a decade, I want material proof–as opposed to theoretical reconstruction and anthropological speculation–that Shenzhen has more than 30 years of culture. Usually, I go about asserting long term cultural occupation of the area as if it were a self-evident truth. Even if the landscape isn’t what it was or the buildings are less than ten years old, I say, there are deep histories histories here: listen. However, as I just mentioned, once or twice a decade, my resolve falters and I wonder: is it possible that what my informants and friends say is true? That Shenzhen doesn’t have any culture?

Now 文化 (wenhua) seems to me tricky to translate because its tied up in understandings about history and accomplishment in ways different from the english word, culture. For example, a maid explains that she hasn’t culture (我没有文化) because she didn’t go to high school. Or when I say I like hakka food, a friend agrees that Hakka culture is rich (客家文化很丰富). Or again, when someone asserts that unlike Beijing, Shenzhen doesn’t have any culture (深圳没有文化) because it is a young city. In hese three examples, the meaning of culture ranges from education through culinary traditions to imperial history.

Located in Longgang District on Daya bay,大鹏所城 or Dapeng Garrison is an anomaly in the Shenzhen landscape–by all counts it is culture of the highest kind. The garrison, which gives Shenzhen its nickname “roc city (鹏城)” is one of only 2,351 national important cultural relics (全国重点文物保护单位). Throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, soldiers stationed at Dapeng protected the area from pirates and colonial forces. Architecturally, was a walled garrison city, including housing for roughly 1,000 people, at least five temples, a school, and several large family compounds, which belonged to the resident general. Socially, it represented one of the military innovations of the ming. the soldiers stationed at dapeng were also farmers; the garrison was economically self-sufficient.

So yes, Shenzhen has culture. Why, then does it go unrecognized? And not only unrecognized, unvisited. Many of my acquaintances have never heard of Dapeng and most have never visited the garrison (even as part of their patriotic education). Unsurprisingly, all the parts and tourist attractions within the garrison are closed for want of visitors.

In part, I suspect that Shenzhen’s so-called lack of culture is a product of the city’s unfettered drive to modernize; no one actually notices historic relics as such. In part, I also think that Shenzhen’s lack of culture has been a rhetorical devise to produce the area as a tabula rasa; if there was nothing here, then the space is clear for all kinds of development. I’d also argue that by claiming that Shenzhen lacks of culture, urban immigrants assert their superiority to local rural residents. But in the end, I sometimes think the answer to the question, why doesn’t Shenzhen have culture is simply practical — most inhabitants lack of the time to be curious about where we are and how we got here. Most in Shenzhen are too busy making ends meet to think beyond their immediate concerns. So we’re stuck here in a present that keeps repeating itself–build, raze, build taller, faster, bigger, raze.

Culture, it seems to me, like education, good food, and history, grows in, through, and over good time, and that is precisely what Shenzhen lacks.

Pictures of Dapeng Garrison.

field of dreams, shenzhen


unfinished, unoccupied timeshare, the fountain resort

managed by swiss-garden international, the fountain resort (深圳金海滩:假日星苑度假村) overlooks xichong bay in kuichong village, longgang. i suspect, but have yet to confirm that the resort was built as many international resorts in the southeast asia are–to attract both upscale locals and foreigners with hotels and timeshares on the beach. nevertheless, several years after construction, only the hotels are being used. except for one or two houses that have been occupied by a family and temporary workers, the other timeshares are unfinished and unoccupied, abandoned before occupation. and yet. the gardens are immaculate, expectant. when i asked the older resident if he was lonely, he said no because he lived with his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. what about neighbors? i continued. they come on the weekends, he replied. i thought but didn’t add, it’s saturday and we’re alone here.

if you build it will they come? recent photos here.