Category Archives: Life style

Local accounts of high-speed rail reform in China

Speelman, Tabitha. (2015) A bullet train or a paved road? Local accounts of high-speed rail reform in China. The Newsletter, International Institute for Asian Studies, 70 (Spring 2015). URL : http://www.iias.nl/the-newsletter/article/bullet-train-or-paved-road-local-accounts-high-speed-rail-reform-china?utm_source=emailcampaign346&utm_medium=phpList&utm_content=HTMLemail&utm_campaign=%5BIIAS%5D+The+Newsletter+|+No.+70+|+Spring+2015f
The first Chinese high-speed rail (HSR) connection opened in 2007, but by the end of 2013 the country had over 12,000 km of high-speed tracks (the biggest network in the world and about half of all HSR tracks in operation worldwide). Service levels among China’s high-speed trains are high; passengers play games on their phones and consume luxury foodstuff s sold on board, as they near their destination at 300 km/h. The perfectly air-conditioned, mostly quiet HSR environment stands in stark contrast to the bustling carriages of regular Chinese trains, in which passengers chat over card games and share life stories, eating instant noodles and sunflower seeds (not for sale on HSR). Influencing traveling cultures is only one of many ways in which the construction of the world’s most advanced highspeed railroad (HSR) network is changing China, a country in which access to travel is closely tied to socio-economic development. So far, scholarly attention has been limited, but whether it is the economic impact of HSR on remote regions, emerging forms of tourism, or the nostalgia surrounding the disappearing slow trains, the approach of the HSR era in China brings with it many topics worthy of further research.

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Still some red dust in Shanghai ?

years of red dustI recently read Qiu Xailong’s “Years of red dust”. This collection of short stories first published in France in 2008 describes daily life in one Lilong of Shanghai named “Red dust”, from 1949 to the mid-2000’s.

By looking at residents’ personal story, we can better understand China’s recent history and the impacts of some events (the Korean war or the Cultural revolution) on people’s daily life. Life in this lilong is not easy and people lack intimacy and  space; they have to endure other residents’ curiosity, but this can also be a place where they can find some friendship.

The last story of this book takes place in 2005. We can wonder if we can still find the “Red dust” lilong in today’s Shanghai. Maybe this place has been developed into a high rise building or a commercial center? But, actually this does not really matter. Because, people have not disappeared. Of course, we may not encounter “Old hunchback Fang” anymore and “ the iron rice bowl” has been broken down. But relations between residents may not have changed that much, inhabitants are still driven by ambition, love, and other feelings.

To me, the main message of this book is that cities are not made of concrete, cement and so on.., but they are made of inhabitants. This is also what I have learned with the UrbaChina programme. Cities do not exist without people, and so urban policies should focus on inhabitants and their well-being,… and policies should be made by inhabitants.

An interview of Qiu Xiaolong is available here.

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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“NIMBY in China: From the perspective of environmental movement

Centre franco-chinois – 中法研究中心
 
The Sino-French research center of the University of Tsinghua is pleased to invite you to the following conference (in Chinese) of

Pr. Ran Ran

Assistant Professor of Political Science 
School of International Studies
Renmin University of China
“NIMBY in China: From the Perspective of Environmental Movement “Friday, March 6th 2015, from 2PM to 4PM
Tsinghua University, Mingzhai Building, room 337Please confirm your attendance by mail to: contact@beijing-cfc.org

清华大学社会科学学院中法研究中心荣幸地
邀请您前来参加下面讲座:
冉冉讲师
中国人民大学国际关系学院政治学系
 
“环境运动视角下的“邻避事件”
2015年3月6日(星期五)
下午两点到四点
清华大学,清华园
明斋楼,337室
请发邮件确实参加: contact@beijing-cfc.org

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Killing Time

Ping Pong

This photo was taken in November 2013 in Nanchuan district, Chongqing. Farmers have been relocated and concentrated in a remote area with little or no public transportation (as of the date when the photo was taken). The concentration of farmers’ homesteads usually takes place in order to optimise the use of arable land as farmers’ homes are scattered throughout the fields and this is an obstacle for the consolidation of arable land now taking place everywhere around the country. Other motivations include the preservation of the threshold of arable land set by the central government by recovering arable land, the improvement of rural infrastructures, and the search of a solution for the problem of the hollow villages (due to the massive migration of young people to the cities, many homesteads remain empty most of the time). A concentration of resources takes place, and farmers are relocated to newly built residential communities (xinxing nongcun shequ – 新型农村社区). Usually, farmers lease the new consolidated land to a cooperative, and some of them continue working the land as employees of the cooperative.

This case is very different. The local government has used the expropriated land in a more lucrative way for its budget, as it has managed to attract private investment (a real estate developer listed in the Hong Kong Stock Market), and develop a tourist town with houses dedicated to the upper-middle class of Chongqing who are in the look for a weekend retreat outside of the metropolitan area. Normally, the law interdicts urban residents to buy rural land but, through the intervention of the visible hand of the government, farmers’ land is expropriated and converted into state land. The miracle is performed. Profits are handsome for the local government, for the real estate developer and, by extension, for all the investors who put their savings into this company, and who will see the dividend payout increase as a result of the difficult-to-match-elsewhere performance of the company. The only ones who won’t make a penny are the original owners of the land.

As a result, the collective economic system is completely wiped out. Farmers will not recuperate their land, except if they buy it at the market price (unattainable after the development of the area). They have a sense of having been cheated. There have been barred from entering the new town, except for the few lucky ones who will be hired by the developer for gardening work. The construction of their new town miles away from the tourist area limits the possibility for entrepreneurism. Youngsters leave their ancestral land to look for a job in the city, and the old ones remain in the new town, which becomes a retirement town. Most of them do not have enough savings for paying the utilities’ bill and need to improvise outdoor kitchens. They live off the remittances from their offspring.

During the Third Plenum of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress held in Beijing in November 2013, the government announced plans to implement reforms regarding farmers’ construction land-use rights. The Chinese leadership finally agreed on the need to equate rural construction land use rights with urban construction land rights under the “same land same rights” principle (tongdi tongquan – 同地同权).1 Would farmers agree to sell their homesteads and be grouped in new residential communities given the choice to transfer their land use rights to whomever they wish?

 

  1. Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to strengthen the important problems posed by the reform (zhonggong zhongyang guanyu quanmian shenhua gaige ruogan zhongda wenti de jueding– 中共中央关于全面深化改革若干重大问题的决定). http://www.hmdjw.gov.cn/article/show-4104.html. Last retrieved December 10, 2013. []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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CFP – Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development

International Conference 2015 on Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development

Date

  • August 7-9, 2015

Location

  • National Taipei University of Technology Library, 國立台北科技大學, No. 1號, Section 3, Zhōngxiào East Road, Daan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10608

Smart city governance

The concept of smart city is suggested as a new style of city for providing sustainable growth and encouraging healthy economic activities to reduce the burden on the environment while improving the QoL (Quality of Life) of city residents. Many experimental projects are currently being carried out in the world, which are varied and divers. Many researchers also be actively involved in vitalizing smart city activities and improving the QoL of residents using ICT-representative technology (Information and Communications Technology). For promoting the establishment of smart cities, SPSD2015 is intended to gather researchers and planning consultants who will share their own ideas and the latest results of research and successful case studies in smart city
governance.

Kuanghui PENG, PhD, Professor
Conference 2015 Chairman,
National Taipei University of Technology, Taipei

Brian PAI, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Conference 2015 Vice Chairman,
National Chengchi University, Taipei

Topics

  • Smart city management;
  • Smart infrastructure planning;
  • Smart mobility society, life style and community;
  • Human behaviors, Spatial analysis and urban modelling;
  • Sustainable development indicator, spatial analysis and urban modelling;
  • Sustainable society and community development;
  • Sustainable society, smart city and planning framework;

Important Dates

For full paper submission and afterconference publication:

  • Deadline for abstract (no more than 800 words):15th Feb, 2015
    Extended to 10th, March (Due to Asian Lunar New Year).
  • Notification for the acceptance of abstract:28th Feb, 2015
    (For the submissions until 10th, March, extended to 20th, March).
  • Deadline for full paper:15th April, 2015
    There will be a review process for afterconference publication and deadline for revised manuscripts
  • For abstract only and oral presentation
    Deadline for abstract (no more than 800 words):15th May, 2015
    Notification for the acceptance of abstract:15th June, 2015

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Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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The pride of the family

These photos were taken in December 2013 in Anshun city, Guizhou province. They show two school diplomas granted to the two daughters of a family who finished first and second in their class. The two unframed photos hanged on the bare walls of the living room.

Prize

Prize2

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Beijing life in a shipping container

Shi Jian, Beijing life in a shipping container, China Dialogue, 27.01.2015 .https://www.chinadialogue.net/

On the outskirts of Beijing, a gardener has built a home out of shipping containers in the hope of creating a green community in the polluted city

 

Main_2
In the summer of 2014 Niu Jian and his family moved from the bustling Beijing district of Haidian to the village of Niuhe in Shunyi, on the outskirts of the capital. Their new home consists of a single-storey arrangement of six 20-foot shipping containers. A 600 watt solar panel hangs on one wall and 300 watt wind turbine spins on the roof.
 

Niu had the containers made to order, with doors and windows, a power supply and insulation. The 150 square metre-space cost him about 300,000 yuan to have built and fitted out and he describes this as a laboratory for sustainable living. Asked why he wanted to spend so much money for a tougher life on the outskirts of Beijing, Niu explains that he wants to spread the idea of a ‘shared community’ – people who want to find a more sustainable life in the smog ridden city.

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Second homes in Hainan (II): social inequalities

The second homes phenomenon not only increases the economic dependency to tourism and real estate sector in Hainan, but also aggravates social inequalities on the island.

In 2013, 40% of all residential real estate transactions were made by non locals. This figure reached 85% in Sanya, the island’s main resort city1. This means that few locals can now afford to buy their home in the southern coast of Hainan. Only wealthy mainlanders can do so.

The Hainanese society has a complex structure, and has long suffered from disparities; second homes may strengthen these inequalities.

Feng Chongyi and David Goodman2 note in the 90’s that the Hainanese society was divided between locals and mainlanders. With Hainan being granted the status of province in 1988, hundred thousand skilled workers flocked from mainland to the island where they were offered high positions in the local administrations and state owned companies.

The development of tourism and second homes in Hainan may deepen these divisions.

According to a study made by Wang, Wei and Li3, Sanya’s population is divided into three main groups that are the local residents (500,000 inhabitants), visitors (100,000) and non local residents  (200 000 inhabitants living in the city several weeks/months per year).

This new population does not only affect real estate prices, but also everyday product prices, this makes locals complain about inflation. The municipal government of Sanya has constantly readjusted the amount of allocation offered to its local residents.Social discontent in Hainan can lead to further tensions between locals and second home owners, and this may make the island’s image less attractive.

Another possible consequence of the second home boom in Hainan is the destruction of local cultural particularisms. With more mainlanders coming to Hainan, the island can lose its “art de vivre”. In the 90’s, one of the consequence of the massive coming of mainlanders to the Hainan was the weakening of Hainanese dialect.

Today, Hainan has for ambition to become a successful tourist destination, but can also do so by offering more than “the sea and sun package”, and so needs to promote its insular culture. And so an equilibirum needs to be found between the settling of second home owners from mainland and the preservation of local culture(s).

 

  1. “85% of Sanya’s residential properties sold to non-islanders”, Hainan government, March 13 2014. Retreived September 20, 2014 from http://en.visithainan.gov.cn/en/lynewsview_2929.htm []
  2. Feng Chongyi and David, S. G. Goodman (1997), “ Hainan: communal politics and the struggle for identity”, in GOODMAN, David S. G. (ed.), China’s provinces in reform : class, community and political culture, London, New York: Routledge []
  3. WANG Fei et al.(2013), “Equalization of public service facilities for tourist cities – case study of Sanya’s downtown public service facilities in the planning process”, ISOCARP []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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Uxcester Garden City project

David Rudlin of URBED was the winner of the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014, announced in September 2014, with the Uxcester Garden City project:

Vision:  We illustrate how the city of Uxcester could double its size by adding three substantial urban extensions each housing around 50,000 people. These lie within a zone 10km from the city centre and are configured as triangles with only the point touching the edge of the settlement. The farmland around the city is currently not accessible to the public and of little ecological value. The concept is that for every hectare of development another will be given back to the city as accessible public space, forests, lakes country parks etc… Each of these satellite extensions would be served by a tram or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running from the existing mainline station on disused lines and then switching to on-street running to loop through the new neighbourhoods. The housing would be developed incrementally to create space for small developers and self-builders alongside the volume housebuilders in a process that recreates the way that the great estates were built in London.   

Popularity: Extending an existing city solves some problems but creates others. The greatest of these will be the task of winning over the existing community, which is likely to be articulate and honed by years of experience resisting development. We suggest a ‘Social Contract’ that would address the concerns of this community. Rather than a future spent fighting years of ill-planned development, the Garden City would offer the prospect of a clear 40 year vision that accommodates development while minimising its impact. The satellite extensions are planned to minimise their visual impact, to create a green grid of accessible open space and to generate investment in new transport infrastructure and city centre facilities to benefit the whole of the community. The aim is to re-frame the argument by getting cities to bid to be designated as a Garden City as they currently bid for City of Culture. 

Economic Viability and Governance:  In the absence of large scale subsidy the only solution to the economics of the Garden City is what Ebenezer Howard called the ‘unearned increment’. We are proposing a deal for landowners in which they trade a small chance of securing a housing consent on their land, for a guarantee of receiving existing use value plus substantial compensation and a financial stake in the Garden City Trust. We have assumed that the land will be brought at an average cost of £350,000 per hectare, 20 times its current agricultural value but only 15% of its value as housing land. The economics of the scheme are based on these differentials. We have assumed that, by extending an existing town rather than building from scratch we can reduce the infrastructure bill from £80,000 to £60,000 per unit. Even assuming that half of the land acquired is used as open space, this still generates sufficient value to fund this level of infrastructure spending. By selling the sites to developers at a fixed price and providing the infrastructure collectively, a market incentive will be created to invest in the quality of the housing.   

The process would be managed by the Garden City Trust that would be owned jointly by the local councils, central government, the local community and land owners – and their stakes would have a tradable capital value. The Garden City Trust would be vested with the land, would commission masterplanning work and then use the equity of the land to raise a Bond to fund the initial investment in infrastructure. Development would take place on a rolling programme with the early land receipts being reinvested. The experience in Holland suggests that such a rolling programme can procure infrastructure investment three times greater that the value of the initial bond.    

We describe the seven ages of the Garden City Trust from its conception and birth through its infancy and adolescence to maturity, middle age and eventually retirement. Over time the role of the trust will evolve as it moves from the development stage to the management phase where it will be structured to enable the local community to take on the stewardship of their neighbourhoods. Rising values over the life of the project will allow initial investments to be repaid. This is not a new model, it is the modern day equivalent of the great estates like Grosvenor or The Bournville Village Trust. 

Our model addresses the weaknesses in the system that have made it so difficult to match the quality of the schemes we admire on the continent. We have debated as a team whether we are being too ambitious with the size of the settlement we are proposing. However nationally we need to increase housing production by the equivalent of one Milton Keynes every year. We therefore need bold strokes to radically increase the rate at which we are building and Uxcester provides a model to do just this. 

For more information on URBED and the submission, click here: http://www.urbed.coop/wolfson-economic-prize

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Eco-urbanism and the eco-city, or, denying the right to the city?

Caprotti, Federico. (2014) Eco-urbanism and the eco-city, or, denying the right to the city? Antipode : A Radical Journal of Geography. Pre-published online, March 3, 2014. DOI: 10.1111/anti.12087

This paper critically analyses the construction of eco-cities as technological fixes to concerns over climate change, Peak Oil, and other scenarios in the transition towards “green capitalism”. It argues for a critical engagement with new-build eco-city projects, first by highlighting the inequalities which mean that eco-cities will not benefit those who will be most impacted by climate change: the citizens of the world’s least wealthy states. Second, the paper investigates the foundation of eco-city projects on notions of crisis and scarcity. Third, there is a need to critically interrogate the mechanisms through which new eco-cities are built, including the land market, reclamation, dispossession and “green grabbing”. Lastly, a sustained focus is needed on the multiplication of workers’ geographies in and around these “emerald cities”, especially the ordinary urban spaces and lives of the temporary settlements housing the millions of workers who move from one new project to another.

Read full text online

 

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Light and shadows

An article published last year in Energy and buildings1 highlights the importance of “thermal comfort” factor in the quality of outdoor spaces.

According to the authors, in cities such as Wuhan with a large temperature range, residents’ use of outddoor spaces is mainly determined by thermal comfort. Residents will only use outdoor facilities if they can find “shade” in summer and “light” in fall and winter.  Per consequence, the authors suggest urban planners to pay better attention to micro climatic conditions when designing public spaces.

  1. Lai, D., Zhou, C., Huang, J., Jiang, Y., Long, Z., and Chen, Q. 2014. “Outdoor space quality: a field study in an urban residential community in central China,” Energy and Buildings, 68, Part B, 713-720. []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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Will urbanisation do away with nomads?

Tibetan couple

This photo was taken near Langmu monastery (Langmusi – 浪木寺) in April 2010. This area marks the administrative dividing line between the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan. According to the Tibetan division, however, the region belongs to Amdo, the easternmost Tibetan region, which covers part of Qinghai, part of Sichuan, and a small corner in southwestern Gansu, also known as Gannan (South Gansu).

Most Amdo Tibetans are natural born nomads. Gannan is a region rich in pastures where herders have rambled since ancestral times (70% of its total area). The yak is closely associated to the Tibetan identity: it provides milk for butter, yogurt and cheese, hair for weaving into tents and rope, with the finer fabric made into clothing, and meat.1 Traditionally, nomads would move with each season, but today their lifestyle is suffering a substantial transformation, perhaps at its most threatened.

The Chinese government is determined to push on with sedentarisation policies. Land degradation is often cited as the main reason for sedentarising nomads. Numerous Chinese scholars support these sedentarisation policies.

Attempts to sedentarise nomads are intrinsic to Central and East Asian history, which has always been characterised by a fight between nomads and farmers. China and Russia have both tried several times to do away with nomadic riders. For over a thousand years horses were an advantage in warfare and nomads bred the best. Therefore, they represented a threat and, at the same time, an appealing booty. In the 1890s, Russia attempted to transform nomads in reliable taxpayers by encouraging their settlement. It did so by fostering a massive colonisation of farmers. Thus, people from different regions occupied the Central Asian pasturelands. It is estimated that between 1896 and 1916, more than one million colonist took over one-fifth of the land. By 1912, Turkestan produced 64% of Russian cotton. These policies would later be reinforced by the Soviet Union, and Central Asia became a mostly one-crop economy.2

In China, grasslands cover more than 40% of the country, which represents four times the area of its forests and three times its total arable land. In contrast to agricultural land, grassland is state-owned unless a collective title can be legally proven.3 This situation has stirred up conflict between local governments and collectives since there seems to be no legal mechanism available to prove property as pasturelands have traditionally been used according to customary tenure.4 Likewise, although the House Responsibility System was successfully implemented in agricultural lands, it brought about many changes to the nomadic lifestyle since nomads’ access to vast expanses of land was restricted as a result. This has in turn led to overgrazing in some cases due to the small size of land available for pasture for each family unit.5

Herders often are deprived of grazing lands due to land reclamation for commercial or farming use. The quest for resources and the consequent mining boom has been another common cause of expropriation in Inner Mongolia (coal production rose almost 50% in 2010). And courts are often reluctant to hear cases related to the inappropriate use of grasslands.6

Nowadays, nomads in China no longer rely on horses, but on motorcycles. Nomadic life has changed somewhat since Tibetans have been provided with houses and a living stipend under the resettlement programme, so they no longer look for pasture during the winter

Infrastructure is improving greatly. Once isolated, the region of Gannan is getting closer to Gansu and Sichuan’s capitals by the day. A modern highway well into construction will soon cross its heart. To make this possible, some mountain zones were dug up to build consecutive tunnels stretching for more than 20 kilometers. Good communication brings tourists and settlers alien to these lands once again.

The term semi-nomadic would be therefore more appropriate to define Amdo Tibetans. They usually just alternate between a winter home and a summer tent. During winter, children attend school. Education is an important part of the resettlement program. According to a report on the resettlement of Kham Tibetans written by Kieran Dodds for the South China Morning Post,7 resettlement is producing an educated but rurally ignorant generation. “Education will ruin our culture”, laments a Tibetan teacher interviewed by Dodds, when describing how compulsory education is driving the resettlement of nomads. As discussed with Norha’s Tibetan entrepreneurs, the problem is that authorities give economic allowances, build houses, but don’t provide job opportunities that may constitute an alternative to herding. Thus, sedentarisation policies often lead to alcoholism and more criminality as recipients of allowances become idle, having given up what they do best.

Bob Dylan is claimed to have said that a man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do. He might well have got inspiration from the lifestyle of nomads in places such as Mongolia, Tibet, and the Central Asian steppes. It would be interesting to see whether Amdo semi-nomads still manage to be a success once urbanisation and sedentarisation policies have been fully implemented. The only clear thing is that no one is immune to the homogenisation of lifestyles taking shape in the world, not even the traditionally most resilient tribes of the northern steppes.

 

  1. The Yak. Gerald Wiener (2003) FAO. United Nations. []
  2. Peter B. Golden (2011) Central Asia in World History. Oxford University Press. []
  3. PRC Constitution, Article 9. []
  4. Peter Ho (2005) Institutions in Transition: Land Ownership, Property Rights and Social Conflict in China, Oxford University Press. []
  5. Ostrom, E.J. (1999) Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges. Science Vol. 284, Nº5412. []
  6. South China Morning Post, Mongolians “sidelined” in mining growth, 1 juin 2011. []
  7. Promised land. SCMP. 6 January, 2013. []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Measuring eco cities, comparing European and Asian experiences: Rotterdam versus Beijing

Meine Pieter van Dijk (2015). Measuring eco cities, comparing European and Asian experiences: Rotterdam versus Beijing. Asia Europe Journal. 20 p. Published online: 4 January 2015. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10308-014-0405-7

Many cities have taken initiatives to achieve more sustainable development or to become ecological cities. In this paper, ten dimensions are suggested for defining ecological cities and an effort has been made to provide indicators to measure them. Many cities claim to be ecological cities, but there are no non-ambiguous definitions of ecological cities and few efforts have been made to measure to what extent the cities have achieved their goal. This paper considers the efforts of Beijing and Rotterdam to become more eco cities, using these dimensions. What can we learn from these experiences for developing the city of the future? In an illustrative effort to apply the suggested criteria, Rotterdam scored slightly better than Beijing. The latter city is facing more serious environmental problems and is willing to try more innovative solutions, while Rotterdam spends more money on prevention and CO2 reduction.

Read full text online (free access)

 

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Neighborhood politics in urban China

Tomba, Luigi (2014). The government next door : neighborhood politics in urban China. Ithaca : Cornell university press. 240 p. ISBN : 978-0-8014-5282-6.

80140100835180MChinese residential communities are places of intense governing and an arena of active political engagement between state and society. In The Government Next Door, Luigi Tomba investigates how the goals of a government consolidated in a distant authority materialize in citizens’ everyday lives. Chinese neighborhoods reveal much about the changing nature of governing practices in the country. Government action is driven by the need to preserve social and political stability, but such priorities must adapt to the progressive privatization of urban residential space and an increasingly complex set of societal forces. Tomba’s vivid ethnographic accounts of neighborhood life and politics in Beijing, Shenyang, and Chengdu depict how such local “translation” of government priorities takes place.

Tomba reveals how different clusters of residential space are governed more or less intensely depending on the residents’ social status; how disgruntled communities with high unemployment are still managed with the pastoral strategies typical of the socialist tradition, while high-income neighbors are allowed greater autonomy in exchange for a greater concern for social order. Conflicts are contained by the gated structures of the neighborhoods to prevent systemic challenges to the government, and middle-class lifestyles have become exemplars of a new, responsible form of citizenship. At times of conflict and in daily interactions, the penetration of the state discourse about social stability becomes clear.

More information

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Second homes in Hainan (I): reducing dependency.

As noted in a previous post, the second home phenomenon in China is quite different from the one in Western countries. Most of them are not exactly holiday homes, but are bought for other purposes. On exception may be Hainan: the southern island is presented as a major tourist destination and so the island has attracted thousands of Mainlanders who wish to spend a few weeks per year under the sun. But second home acquisitions in Hainan are also motivated by speculation. Per consequence, this phenomenon needs be carefully scrutinized by local authorities, and more actions should be taken to reduce the local dependency to the real estate sector.

In the past, in the early years of reforms, Hainan was doomed by real estate speculation and this partly caused the economic turmoil the island experienced in the late 90’s.

Since then, the island has been recovering thanks to the development of tourism.  With tourism and the rising of Chinese middle-class, second homes have appeared in Hainan. According to Wang Xiaoxiaà in in 2006, 25,000 second homes could be found Haikou1.

In 2010 was launched an ambitious plan to transform Hainan into an international destination by 2020. This decision boosted the housing sector on the island, but for fear of overheating, the local government limited the number of acquisitions one may purchased in Hainan. In spite of these measures, the island experienced a strong increase of real estate prices, and Sanya, Hainan’s main resort city, has become the 5th most expensive Chinese city.

For the local authorities, real estate and construction have gradually become their main financial resources. For the first semester 2014, more than one third of the provincial GDP was produced by real estate, this figure reached nearly three-fourths in Sanya2.

This causes the whole economy of Hainan to be very dependent on real estate.  And the bad news is that real estate in Hainan is very volatile and speculative. Most real estate programmes do not answer local housing demands but target wealthy Mainlanders, and since the beginning of this year, sales have started to drop.

This should drive the local government of Hainan to reconsider its strategy and diversify the island’s economic activities.

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I have studied this aspect of the development of tourism in Hainan in my Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Les politiques de développement regional d’une zone périphérique chinoise, le cas de la province de Hainan (Regional development policies in a Chinese peripheral region: the case of Hainan province). This dissertation was defended on December, 18, 2014, and will soon be available online.

  1. WANG Xiaoxiao (2006), The second home phenomenon in Haikou, Master thesis, University of Waterloo, Canada. Retreived December 20, 2015 from http://etd.uwaterloo.ca/etd/x42wang2006.pdf []
  2. DOI, Noriyuki (2014), ‘Chinese housing prices still sliding’, Nikkei Asian review, August, 24. Retreived September 20, 2014 from http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Chinese-housing-prices-still-sliding []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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