I 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.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has unveiled new plans to intensify railroad transportation construction, particularly in Western China.
China owns now the largest high-speed rail network in the world. This network is widely used by citizens especially these days, for New Year holidays.
But one can question the financing of such infrastructures. It has been noted that very few high speed rail lines in the world have proved to be profitable. The popular Beijing-Shanghai line has only turned profitable in 20141. But maintenance costs are still very high and can only rise as China labor costs is increasing.
During my studies, I examined the case of high speed railroad in Hainan. This province has the denser network of high speed railroads in China. I found out that this programme was very expensive for the provincial government and so the local government has increased its economic dependency toward the central authorities. They have also relied on intense real estate constructions along the network to finance these infrastructures and this has led to real estate speculation issues.
Although we cannot deny the social benefits of high speed train network, China has to make sure that these unprofitable lines would not become an economic burden.
- Lyu Chang (2015). ‘Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line turns profitable in 2014’. China daily, January 27. Retrieved February 22, 2015 from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2015-01/27/content_19414353.htm
Last year, Shanghai’s GDP growth rate reached 7%. Although this figure is impressive according to European standards, it is lower than the national rate of 7.4%
This year, the Shanghai government has decided not to set a growth target. It is the first Chinese city to abandon GDP growth forecasts. The objective of this policy is to switch from growth at all costs to sustainable and innovative development.
More information to be find at: Wildau, G. (2015). Shanghai first major Chinese region to ditch GDP growth target. January 26, 2015, The Financial Times. Retrieved February 14, 2015 from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2c822efc-a51d-11e4-bf11-00144feab7de.html#axzz3Ro8Q8zl9.
In 2003, the Stockholm Environment Institute in collaboration with a local district of Ordos started to implement a project of eco-sanitation and tested dry toilets. But this initiative came to an end in 2010.
Arno Rosemarin and Guoyi Han explained in a short article the reasons why this poject was not continued.
Rosemarin, A. and Han, G. (2013, January). Is urban ecological sanitation possible? Lessons from Erdos, China. Stockholm Environment Institute. Retrieved February 8, 2016 from http://www.sei-international.org/-news-archive/2542?format=pdf.
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).
- “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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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.
- Amsellem, G. (Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine (2015). Introduction. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Bina, O. and L. Balula (ICS-ULisboa) and A. Ricci (ISIS) (2015). The “eco” and “low-carbon” cities agenda and the spacescale-efficiency nexus: experience in the EU and China. UrbaChina Wp4. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Bina, O., L. Balula (ICS-ULisboa), M. Varanda (ISEG-ULisboa) and J. Fokdal (TUBerlin) (2015). University Graduate Syllabi for Urban Studies: China, EU, World. UrbaChina Wp6. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Daniels, P. (Univ. of Birmingham) (2015). Producer services and urbanization in China: trends and challenges. UrbaChina Wp2. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Du, D. and Huang, L. (HuaDa) (2015). Prospects and paths for sustainable urbanization in China -a case study in Shanghai since 1990s. UrbaChina Wp2. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Du, D. and Huang, L. (Huada) (2015).Shanghai in 2050: its development challenges and strategy choices. UrbaChina. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Dunford, M. (Univ. of Sussex-IGSNRR) (2015). Chongqing: creating new paths and urban-rural integration in western China. UrbaChina Wp3. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Elosua, M., Goulard, S. (EHESS) and Ai Chi-han (Sun Yatsen Univ.) (2015). Sharing and informing about urbanisation in China. UrbaChina Wp6. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Feuchtwang, S. (LSE) (2015). Policy implementation and formation in Chinese cities. UrbaChina Wp5. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Li, S. (DRC) (2015). Prospects and challenges for sustainable urbanization in China. UrbaChina Wp2. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Liu, Z. (Peking Univ.-Lincoln Institute) (2015). New challenges in urban governance and finance. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Meng, J. (Tsinghua) (2015). Urban Governance and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)–What can we learn from Japanese experiences? UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Pu, Y. (Chongqing Univ.) (2015). Challenges for the future of Chongqing’s economy. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Ricci, A. (ISIS), O. Bina (ICS-ULisboa) & G. Guiffré (ISIS) (2015). Urban scenarios as policy support mechanisms. UrbaChina Wp4. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.
- Yuan, Z. (Fudan) (2015). Social security reform and its impact on urbanisation: the case of Shanghai. UrbaChina final international conference, 15-17 January 2015. Paris.