Verdini, Giulio1 (2014). The costs of urban growth at the fringe of a Chinese city : evidence from Jinshi Village in Suzhou. International Development Planning Review, 36:4, p. 413-43. Published online October 08, 2014. DOI : 10.3828/idpr.2014.27.
The rate of city growth in China today correlates well with an overall loss of the most fertile agricultural areas of the country. A consequence of this growth includes the rapid reshaping of peri-urban livelihoods in their densely populated fringe. The policy response from central government has focused on containing city growth and pursuing modern rural development. Both policy directions have failed, in part, to acknowledge the intrinsic nature of the urban fringe in China. This paper explores the features of the fringe of Suzhou, a fast growing city in the Yangtze River Delta. The aim is to outline potential social costs of this current policy framework, through analysing the case study of Jinshi Village. The paper advocates a different regionalist approach to policy implementation.
In 2013, Giulio Verdini has been a visiting scholar at the CECMC (EHESS), the institution that hosts the editorial team of the UrbaChina blog. The activities of Giulio Verdini at the CECMC are presented in Carnets du Centre Chine :
Jeremy Brown (2012). City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: Negotiating the Divide. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781107424548.
The gap between those living in the city and those in the countryside remains one of China’s most intractable problems. As this powerful work of grassroots history argues, the origins of China’s rural-urban divide can be traced back to the Mao Zedong era. While Mao pledged to remove the gap between the city worker and the peasant, his revolutionary policies misfired and ended up provoking still greater discrepancies between town and country, usually to the disadvantage of villagers. Through archival sources, personal diaries, untapped government dossiers, and interviews with people from cities and villages in northern China, the book recounts their personal experiences, showing how they retaliated against the daily restrictions imposed on their activities while traversing between the city and the countryside. Vivid and harrowing accounts of forced and illicit migration, the staggering inequity of the Great Leap Famine, and political exile and deportation during the Cultural Revolution reveal how Chinese people fought back against policies that pitted city dwellers against villagers.
Stefan Al is an associate professor of urban design at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the editor of Factory Towns of South China: An Illustrated Guidebook.
Countless Chinese villages have been engulfed by modern cities. They no longer consist of picturesque farms and fengshui groves, but of high-rise buildings so close to each other that they create dark claustrophobic alleys — jammed with dripping air-conditioners, hanging clothes, caged balconies and bundles of buzzing electric wires, and crowned with a small strip of daylight, known as “thin line sky.” At times, buildings stand so close to each other they are dubbed “kissing buildings” or “handshake houses” — you can literally reach out from one building and shake hands with your neighbor.
Although it is easy to see these villages as slums, a closer look reveals that they provide an important, affordable, and well-located entry point for migrants into the city. They also offer a vital mixed-use, spatially diverse and pedestrian alternative to the prevailing car-oriented modernist-planning paradigm in China. Yet most of these villages are on the brink of destruction, affecting the homes of millions of people and threatening the eradication of a unique urban fabric.
Villages in the City argues for the value of urban villages as places. To reveal their qualities, a series of drawings and photographs uncover the immense concentration of social life in the dense structures, and provide a peek into residents’ homes and daily lives. Essays by a number of experts offer a deeper understanding of the topic, and help imagine how reinstating the focus on the village could lead to a richer, more variegated pathway of urbanization.