Category Archives: Urban policies

Shanghai future

Anna Greenspan (2014), Shanghai Future. Modernity Remade, London, Hurst.

China is in the midst of the fastest and most intense process of urbanisation the world has ever known, and Shanghai — its biggest, richest and most cosmopolitan city — is positioned for acceleration into the twenty-first century.

Yet, in its embrace of a hopeful — even exultant — futurism, Shanghai recalls the older and much criticised project of imagining, planning and building the modern metropolis. Today, among Westerners, at least, the very idea of the futuristic city — with its multilayered skyways, domestic robots and flying cars — seems doomed to the realm of nostalgia, the sadly comic promise of a future that failed to materialise.

Shanghai Future maps the city of tomorrow as it resurfaces in a new time and place. It searches for the contours of an unknown and unfamiliar futurism in the city’s street markets as well as in its skyscrapers. For though it recalls the modernity of an earlier age, Shanghai’s current re-emergence is only superficially based on mimicry. Rather, in seeking to fulfill its ambitions, the giant metropolis is reinventing the very idea of the future itself. As it modernises, Shanghai is necessarily recreating what it is to be modern.

Anna Greenspan is a Shanghai-based philosopher who focuses on urbanism and digital culture. She teaches at New York University in Shanghai.

 

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Ghost cities of China

Shepard, Wade (2015) . Ghost cities of China : the story of cities without people in the world’s most populated country. Zed Books, 192 p. (Asian Arguments). ISBN : 978-1-7836-0219-3

9781783602193Over the next couple of decades, it is estimated that 250 million Chinese citizens will move from rural areas into cities, pushing the country’s urban population over one billion. China has built hundreds of new cities and urban districts over the past thirty years, and hundreds more are set to be built by 2030 as the central government kicks its urbanization initiative into overdrive. As China redraws its map with new cities, it isn’t just creating new urban areas, but also engineering a new culture and way of life. Yet, many of these new cities, such as the infamous Kangbashi and Yujiapu, stand nearly empty, construction having ground to a halt due to the loss of investors and colossal debt.

In Ghost Cities of China, Wade Shepard examines this phenomenon up close. He posits that the shedding of traditional social structures in the country is at an advanced stage, and a rootless, consumption-centric globalized culture is rapidly taking its place. Incorporating interviews and on-the-ground investigation, Ghost Cities of China examines China’s under-populated modern cities and the country’s overly ambitious building program.

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Monique Abud

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

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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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Conserving historic urban landscape for the future generation

Chao-Ching Fu (2016), Conserving Historic Urban Landscape for the Future Generation – Beyond Old Streets Preservation and Cultural Districts Conservation in Taiwan, International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, Vol. 6, No. 5, May 2016. DOI: 10.7763/IJSSH.2016.V6.676

On 10 November 2011 UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the new Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape by acclamation, the first such instrument on the historic environment issued by UNESCO in 35 years. This paper will first review the preservation of “old streets” and the conservation of “cultural districts” in Taiwan. Then, the paper will discuss how the concept of “historic urban landscape” could be transformed into an approach or a tool for conserving historic cities and towns in Taiwan.

http://www.ijssh.org/vol6/676-CH399.pdf

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Peri-urban development and the Shanghai master plan 1999-2020

He, Jinghuan. (2015) Evaluation of plan implementation: Peri-urban development and the Shanghai master plan 1999-2020. Architecture and the Built Environment, 2. 262 p.

cover_article_851_en_USSince the 1980s China has experienced unprecedented urbanisation as a result of a series of reforms promoting rapid economic development. Shanghai, like the other big cities along China’s coastline, has witnessed extraordinary growth in its economy and population with industrial development and rural-to-urban migration generating extensive urban expansion. Shanghai’s GDP growth rate has been over 10 per cent for more than 15 years. Its population in 2013 was estimated at 23.47 million, which is double its size in 1979. The urban area enlarged by four times from 644 to 2,860 km2 between 1977 and 2010.

Such demanding growth and dramatic changes present big challenges for urban planning practice in Shanghai. Plans have not kept up with development and the mismatch between the proposals in plans and the actual spatial development has gradually increased, reaching a critical level since 2000. The mismatch in the periurban areas is more notable than that in the existing urban area, but there has not been a systematic review of the relationship between plan and implementation. Indeed, there are few studies on the evaluation of plan implementation in China generally. Although many plans at numerous spatial levels are successively prepared and revised, only few of them have been evaluated in terms of their effectiveness and implementation.

This particularly demanding context for planning where spatial development becomes increasingly unpredictable and more difficult to influence presents an opportunity to investigate the role of plans under conditions of rapid urbanisation. The research project asks to what extent have spatial plans influenced the actual spatial development in the peri-urban areas of Shanghai? The research pays particular attention to the role of the Shanghai Master Plan 1999-2020 (Plan 1999). By answering the main research question this study seeks to contribute to a better understanding of present planning practice in Shanghai from a plan implementation perspective, and to establish an analytical framework for the study of the role of plans that fits the Chinese context. The findings may also help planners, policy makers and private developers to adjust urban planning within the implementation process in order to meet planning objectives at different levels.

The evaluation of plan implementation can be divided into peformance-based and performance-based approaches Conformance approaches focus on the direct linkage (i.e. level of conformity) between the plans and spatial outputs (Laurian et al., 2004; Tian & Shen, 2011). Performance approaches are concerned more with outcomes and the role of the plan in the urban development process (Barrett & Fudge, 1981; Faludi, 2000). Both of these approaches are employed in this research to evaluate the implementation of the Plan 1999. I firstly examine the level of conformity between the Plan 1999 and the overall peri-urban structure at the metropolitan level. I then use examples of specific areas (North Jinqiao Export Processing Zone and Xinmin Development Area) to evaluate performance of the Plan 1999.

The study also takes a diachronic approach, which looks at how relationships between variables change over time in the implementation of the Plan 1999. That is because the performance of plans is influenced by deeper-seated reasons such as the changing institutional context, particularly the levels of interaction between involved actors in the land development processes. As such, the changing planning system in Shanghai and the history of Shanghai’s peri-urban development in the second half of the 20th century are reviewed before the conformance-based and performance-based evaluation.

This research leads to three major findings. First, peri-urban areas have played an increasingly important role in Shanghai’s urbanisation process through accommodating the rapidly increasing population and demands for growth. Such extensive peri-urban development was not guided by the Plan 1999. It is not surprising that plans are left behind in the context of such unprecedented growth, but the pilot programmes and the key projects proposed in the Plan 1999 were implemented with a high level of conformance. However, the Plan 1999 performed differently in local urban projects, with varying degrees of project conformity, development process and development timing.

Second, there was variation in the delivery of the main objectives to the subsequent urban plans, the consistency between the Plan 1999 and the related sector plans, the ways of interaction between involved actors and their reactions to the plan, and the methods of land development. Overall, the Plan 1999 performed better in the case of North Jinqiao Export Processing Zone because the governments (at both national and municipal levels) intervened more in the development process, compared with the case of Xinmin Development Area. The performance of the plan is closely related to the level of conformity between the plan and the actual development. Therefore, although the conformance-based and performance-based approaches to implementation can be separated conceptually, they are very interconnected in practice.

Third, the urban planning system in Shanghai has experienced a structural reorganization in terms of the system of plans, the involved actors and the planning instruments since the late 1980s. But the emphasis on the rational technocratic process used in the 1960s in the western society is still predominant in the planning system in Shanghai. Aside from the demanding urban growth, the other reason of non-conformance between the actual peri-urban development and the Plan 1999 and bad performance of the Plan 1999 in local projects is a big gap between the seemingly rational operation of the urban planning system and the reality of external challenges.

The current planning system lacks proper coordination with the external challenges, such as insufficient investigation of the existing circumstance or history, and ineffective planning instruments. Cooperation between involved actors is also largely absent in planning practice. Overall, urban planning and management in Shanghai could benefit from more recognition and monitoring of plan implementation which would lead to some reconsideration of the planning tools and processes to more effectively guide future urban development.

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Monique Abud

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

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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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Strict crowd limits set for Beijing Lunar New Year celebrations in wake of Shanghai crush

Beijing authorities have set precise mathematical limits on allowable crowd densities for events during the Lunar New Year holiday after the government ordered increased safety precautions across the country in the wake of the deadly New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai.

Read more on The South China Morning Post 2015-02-12

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Fantasy islands

Sze, Julie (2015). Fantasy islands : Chinese dreams and ecological fears in an age of climate crisis. Oakland : University of California press. 248 p. (“A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies”). ISBN : 978-0-5202-8448-7.

11623.110The rise of China and its status as a leading global factory are altering the way people live and consume. At the same time, the world appears wary of the real costs involved. Fantasy Islands probes Chinese, European, and American eco-desire and eco-technological dreams, and examines the solutions they offer to environmental degradation in this age of global economic change.

Uncovering the stories of sites in China, including the plan for a new eco-city called Dongtan on the island of Chongming, mega-suburbs, and the Shanghai World Expo, Julie Sze explores the flows, fears, and fantasies of Pacific Rim politics that shaped them. She charts how climate change discussions align with US fears of China’s ascendancy and the related demise of the American Century, and she considers the motives of financial and political capital for eco-city and ecological development supported by elite power structures in the UK and China. Fantasy Islands shows how ineffectual these efforts are while challenging us to see what a true eco-city would be.

Contents

Introduction
1. Fear, Loathing, Eco-Desire: Chinese Pollution in a Transnational World
2. Changing Chongming
3. Dreaming Green: Engineering the Eco-City
4. It’s a Green World After All? Marketing Nature and Nation in Suburban Shanghai
5. Imagining Ecological Urbanism at the World Expo
Conclusion

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Monique Abud

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

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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.

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Monique Abud

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

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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.

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Monique Abud

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

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Jeremy Wallace on “China’s rush to urbanize”

Johnson, Ian. Q. and A.: Jeremy Wallace on China’s rush to urbanize. The New York Times. Sinosphere. 4 January 2015. URL: http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/q-and-a-jeremy-wallace-on-chinas-rush-to-urbanize/?emc=edit_tnt_20150104&nlid=16428923&tntemail0=y&_r=1 (Retrieved 5 January 2015).

How did you come to write “Cities and Stability”?

I always wondered how China had avoided the slums that seem to dominate the large cities of other developing countries. When I started my research for this book, I heard that China was concerned about “Latin Americanization” — meaning megacities, inequality and instability. At the same time, the government was abolishing agricultural taxes that had been collected in some form for over two and a half millennia. These developments seemed important to understand.

In your book you describe how China escaped the usual social unrest that accompanies preferential policies for cities thanks to its hukou, or household registration, system.

China’s household registration system separates its rural and urban populations. While those born in cities have a local hukou that gives them access to social services, those born in the countryside have a harder time getting access to services when they migrate to cities.

Most poor countries favor cities to promote development and ensure that people living in cities are pro-government. I argue that this kind of “urban bias” might tamp down protests today but also encourages more and more farmers to move to favored cities. These large cities, often full of slums, can explode. Urban protests can quickly overwhelm regimes, even seemingly stable ones like Mubarak’s in Egypt. China’s hukou system is a loophole to this Faustian bargain: favoring urbanites while keeping farmers in the countryside and smaller cities.

Read the interview

Monique Abud

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

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Nested maps

Nested maps: reality representation as a first action against easement process

Marlène Leroux is preparing a Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Densifying rural territories: China, from massive growth patterns to more sustainable urban planning” under the supervision of Prof. I Devanthéry-Lamunière (EPFL) and Prof. J.C. Bolay (Unesco Chair, CODEV)

The author’s doctoral research is primarily focused on analysing the issue of rural urbanisation as a key sustainable development challenge based on the conviction that rural areas today must be studied on their own account and no longer simply understood as the counterpart to urban areas1.

In China, vast rural areas are currently undergoing “modernisation” via the application of a generic, expansive urban model. This modernisation is evidenced in the creation of new towns and road infrastructures a process that simultaneously homogenises the complex reality of both rural practices and regional characteristics, flying in the face of natural resource availability and significant climatic and cultural disparities2. This forced coexistence of urban models conceived ex-nihilo (top-down) and the reality of a rural area (bottom-up) generates interactions and major tensions, too.

This post will draw on one of our case studies: the modernisation currently under way on Chengdu Plain. This area is a major agricultural production centre that functions with a mixed traditional rural system and industrial activity, supported by a dense fabric of rural villages(linban) spread across the territory. The region is currently undergoing transformation and urbanisation on a massive scale a process that has been amplified by the need for reconstruction following the devastating earthquake of May 2008 (7.8 on the Richter scale). This is a region that has experienced major human and material losses; its modernisation and reconstruction are a response to economic, social and political challenges.

Analysis of the “nested” maps allows us to observe the reality of a region at a given time and different scales. The first sample represents a region with a diameter of 500 km around the area of study i.e. a surface area of 200,000 km2 (20 m ha). This allows us to locate our case study on the national scale (proximity to major urban hubs, industrial centres, major communication routes, etc.) and also in terms of major landscape features (coastal areas, mountain chains, major rivers, etc.). It should be noted that 250 km is the distance that can be travelled in all day’s journey; in our view the impact of elements beyond this distance is no longer related to their geographic proximity.

Leroux_illustration

The 100 km sample, i.e. a radius of 50 km around the area of study, allows analysis at a more local scale, situating the study zone within its more immediate context. Yet on this scale it is the network of waterways connected with the irrigation system that comes to the fore. The Min river, which has its source at the end of the Himalayas chain, divides into channels which fan out across the whole of the plain. From the original riverbed, the river is divided to obtain a fine network of irrigation channels. Thanks to the central Chinese subtropical climate (humidity, heat) a wide variety of crops can be grown and cropping frequency is high. The soil, which has always been fertile, is constantly enriched by sediments carried in the river water. This exceptional irrigation system gives the region its distinctive identity and has defined the way the area has developed for hundreds of years.

Finally, the 2 km sample covers the micro-local context, on a scale appropriate to walking and “soft” mobility. This scale permits precise observations of relations between the built environment, farms, fields and forests, allowing us to begin the process of identifying and classifying the elements that constitute the reality of the Chinese rural condition.

The first step would be to consider these emerging areas in a more positive light and to look for ways of optimising them, ways of integrating the existing infrastructures with new development projects. This means engaging with the reality of the rural areas concerneda reality located somewhere between [idealised] memories of a sophisticated rural idyll and megacity fantasies. Just as we inventorise our built heritage (listing, classifying and grading historic monuments) or even disused railway sites3), every element of the landscape, every rural infrastructure, every local custom should first of all be identified, catalogued and documented and then (as the second phase of the process) be given a value. These gradings would correspond to specific rules and procedures to be observed. The aim is not to depict a rural landscape that is frozen in time but to create a series of diagnostic tools and frameworks for action. Having been recorded and valued in this way, the topography, the water system, the paths, walls, the waste disposal sites greenhouses, vegetable gardens, could be preserved, reused or destroyed but at any rate they have been taken into account. The design decisions resulting from this process are then taken in view of the facts and not as a consequence of deliberate, convenient oversight.

This process of classifying rural territories, following a methodology as sophisticated as that used for urban areas, should be carried out using appropriate representational methods. The tools for this diagnostic process have yet to be devised, yet the process of innovation is already underway4. Only once these diagnostic tools are in place will it be possible to establish strategies for developing urban scenarios that are sustainable, realistic and practicable, via the creation of new planning tools5. These planning tools would need to be able to take national aspirations and ambitions into account while at the same time optimising local resources. The futures of urban areas and rural areas are inescapably intertwined. Prospective analysis of the globalisation phenomenon from the perspective of rural areas is crucial here: these rural areas may contain within themselves the potential to shape new identities, enabling China to generate a new, integrated model of regional intervention that will be absolutely vital in the long term6.

  1. Woods, M. (2010), Rural, Andover, Taylor& Francis []
  2. Friedman, J. (2005), China’s Urban Transition, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press []
  3. Devanthéry-Lamunière, I. (2008 []
  4. Vigano, P. (2012), Les territoires de l’urbanisame, Genève, Métispresse []
  5. Mostafavi, M., Doherty, G. (2010), Ecological urbanism, Baden, Lars Muller Publishers []
  6. Hassenflug, D.  (2010), The urban code of China, Bâle, Birkhauser []

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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Invisible migrant enclaves in Chinese cities

Huang, Youqin, Yi Chengdong. (2014) Invisible migrant enclaves in Chinese cities : Underground living in Beijing, China. Urban Studies. Pre-published online, December 22, 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0042098014564535

China is experiencing an urban revolution, powered in part by hundreds of millions of migrant workers. Faced with institutionalised discrimination in the housing system and the lack of housing affordability, migrants have turned to virtually uninhabitable spaces such as basements and civil air defence shelters for housing. With hundreds of thousands of people living in crowded and dark basements, an invisible migrant enclave exists underneath the modern city of Beijing. We argue that in Chinese cities, housing has been adopted as an institution to exclude and marginalise migrants, through: (a) defining migrants as an inferior social class through the Hukou system and denying their rights to entitlements including housing; (b) abnormalising migrants through various derogatory naming and categorisations to legitimise exclusion; and (c) purifying and controlling migrant spaces to achieve exclusion and marginalisation. The forced popularity of basement renting reflects the reality that housing has become an institution of exclusion and marginalisation. It embodies vertical spatial marginalisation, with exacerbated contrasts between basement tenants and urban residents, heightened fear of the ‘other’, even more derogatory naming, and the government’s more aggressive clean-up of their spaces. We call for reforms and policy changes to ensure decent and affordable housing for basement tenants and migrants in general.

Read full text online (restricted access)

 

Monique Abud

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

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“Urban communities and social sustainability”

On Decemberf 19, a UrbaChina workshop was held in Paris. Dring this event, Prof. Feuchtwang pressented us hios team’s finding on the subject of “urban communities and social sustainability”.

His ppt presentation is available here:

wp5 decembre 19.

 

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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