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Territorial Compromises: limits of morphological and civic negotiation



Deregulated economic regions in coastal China, like the Pearl River Delta (PRD) represent a rare condition and an utterly scarce resource in otherwise socialist country. This strained condition unleashed a spontaneous creativity that produced a new urban topography, one that accommodates change well and is highly flexible. 30-year rural industrialization in Dongguan prefecture in PRD created particular morphological structure, which allows for local and global claims to be accommodated within a limited area. The conflicting pressures exerted on the territory have provoked spontaneously-created or improvised topographies that at the same time ‘culturally’ refer to traditional and techno-capitalistic orders. These are distinguished on the basis of treatment of nature. This paper will look closer at the morphological organization and further into the patterns of civic negotiation between the two orders, to outline a unique cohabitation of local grassroots and state official decision making. The negotiation creates zones of ambiguity in which competing claims are negotiated without reference to an overall planning policy, creating a new type of civic order. As the West is trying to engineer this elusive quality, the rural industrialized areas of Dongguan, PRD have it ingrained in order to survive.
Edited by
Barbara Ascher
Isis Nunez Ferrera
Michael Klein
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism n.29 vol II/2014
Special Issue in collaboration with SCIBE
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism n.29 vol II/2014
in collaboration with
Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment
Peer Reviewed Articles
Edited by
Barbara Ascher
Isis Nunez Ferrera
Michael Klein
Published by
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism no.29, vol. II/2014
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Graphics by Nicola Vazzoler
Cover: Adapted from “Self-built housing in Quito, Ecuador © Isis Nunez Ferrera
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism
5 | 130
Barbara Ascher, Isis Nunez Ferrera, Michael Klein .......................p.7
Scarcity - Local responses to “lack”
Camillo Boano ......................................................................p.13
Notes around design politics: design dissensus and the poiesis
of scarcity
Bo Tang .................................................................................p.29
Negotiating shared spaces in informal peri-urban settlements in
India. The role of amenity buildings and the eect of the post-hoc
introduction of infrastructure towards the creation of common
Federico Venturini, Ersilia Verlinghieri ......................................p.51
Scarcity, post-scarcity and local community: L’Aquila as a case
Piero Sassi ...........................................................................p.71
Degrowth urban policy? The contemporary debate on post-
growth alternatives and the challenges posed by soil consumption
Sheikh Serajul Hakim, Joseph Lim Ee Man .............................p.83
Scarcity, control and negotiations: an interpretation of form in
urban informal settlements
Tomaz Pipan .......................................................................p.103
Territorial Compromises: limits of morphological and civic
Sante Simone, Mejrema Zatric ...............................................p.117
Voids as modern ruins. The project for the city in the face of the
new spatial scarcity
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism
102 | 130
#rural urbanization
#urban order
#dongguan china
Territorial Compromises: Informal back alley food market in a shadow
of an industrial compound across and at the back are worker dormitories. Shipai,
Dongguan, China, 2008 © Tomaz Pipan
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism
103 | 130
1. Introduction
Shortage and scarcity breeds competition, cooperation and ingenuity. It is almost
ironic that the supposedly most egalitarian system of communist China created a
condition of land-use with such a high degree of scarcity. From the
hukou residence
to the
Great Leap Forward
, these and other ‘special’ policies contributed to a
Great Leap Forward, these and other ‘special’ policies contributed to a Great Leap Forward
fractured social landscape with uneven distribution of resources and rights. In an
allegedly egalitarian society it does not get more ‘special’ than a Special Economic
Zone (SEZ), an incubator of free market and global economy. Such a political act
in 1978 transformed the Shenzhen village into the first SEZ, and soon after a wider
area known as Pearl River Delta (PRD) followed, creating a special economic region
(SER) a resource of liberal capitalism – an utterly scarce resource in otherwise so
cialist China
Figure 1.
Location of the research area in reference to the Pearl River Delta,
Dongguan prefecture and local townships.
(All images by Google, additional manipulation by Tomaz Pipan)
On the 11th Plenary Session of Central Committee of PRC in 1978, the Chinese government
selected areas to overseas markets. One of the instruments was a Special Economic Zone
(SEZ) that facilitates economic exchange between China and global markets featuring
favourable laws to attract foreign investors and producers. In 1980, Shenzhen in PRD, by
and so did the area. By 1988 the whole region of PRD was designated as PRD Economic
Zone. For the purposes of this paper, wi shell name this Special Economic Region (SER),
to distinguish it from the smaller area of Shenzhen – the initial Special Economic Zone
(SEZ) of the PRD region.
Tomaz Pipan
Territorial compromises:
limits of morphological and
civic negotiation
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This special situation and its exclusive character made the PRD (figure 1a) highly
desirable. We could say that for China, this kind of condition was scarce indeed. The
following thirty years witnessed an unprecedented rural urbanization that fuelled a
wild social, cultural and spatial experiment. A deregulated ‘land of plenty’ within the
PRD experienced intense pressures and transformations and a subsequent creation
of some of the most unique urban patterns we can imagine. This is most apparent
in industrialized areas, where agriculture is being replaced with Processing and As
sembly (P&A) industry as showcased in the research area – a rural-industrial conglo
merate in Dongguan prefecture (figure 1b and 1c)
These strained conditions unleashed a spontaneous creativity that produced a new
urban topography (figure 1c), one that accommodates change well and is highly fle
xible. Here traditional communities as well as migrant workers from other rural are
as came face to face with technological and economic pressures of liberal capitalism.
Rice paddies and fish farms were transformed overnight into a new industrial-rural
landscape consisting of kilometres upon kilometres of fragments interlocking
low-end housing, factories, rudimentary services, walled villa estates and agriculture
(figure 2).
Figure 2.
1. Gardens, 2. New middle class development, 3. High End developments, 4. Line
ar Housing along new roads, 5. Themed Condos, 6. Small Industrial Compound, 7. Village,
8. Rice paddies, 9. Large Industrial Compound, 10. Shaking-hands villages
(all images by Google)
These industrialized areas have a particular morphological structure, which allows
for local and global claims to be accommodated within small area. The conflicting
pressures exerted on the territory have provoked spontaneously-created or impro
vised topographies that at the same time ‘culturally’ refer to, what is later in the text
defined as traditional and techno-capitalistic orders. These landscapes are assembled
from typological fragments through which local historical villages and young regio
nal infrastructural corridors can be connected and ‘stitched’ together. This creates
zones of ambiguity in which competing claims are negotiated without reference to
an overall planning policy. This meshwork landscape is as varied in its social life as
it is in its physical appearance. From afar it looks hopelessly disorganized and mi
shandled. However, the result is not as chaotic as might be suspected.
Within PRD
SER, Dongguan is one of the most famous cases of rural urbanization as it
experienced an incredible growth from the onset of its accession to the special economic
status in 1985. Dongguan city proper was very successful in attracting foreign direct
investment and due to this grew economically and in population. With the economic
success its prestige and standing amongst neighbouring cities progressed. Dongguan was
also brought about higher degree of administrative freedom that local level governments
(like village committees) at different levels have.
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This paper will look closer at the morphological organization and further into the
patterns of civic negotiation to outline a unique cohabitation of local grassroots
and state official decision making. The case study will show that, in the competi
tion between state-managed infrastructure and traditional settlements there arises
a curious ambiguity of actual practices and potentially new institutions, not always,
or not yet, realised. The scarcity of land and uniqueness of situation requires a
consensual nature of these territories so to accommodate two orders that are so
different. The paper will therefore look at the capacity of fragments and describe
how these fragments comprise an unorthodox urban topography; further the paper
will attempt to evaluate their ability to support a new civic order. This will be done
through identification and description of typical situations.
2. Description of typical situations and conditions
Firstly we have to describe typical conditions and situations that constitute this lan
dscape. These typical fragments and the kinds of life they enable are identified on
the basis of what kind of order they support and are a part of.
The swiftly industrialized areas of Dongguan give a unique opportunity to study
effects and consequences of a conflict that lies at the heart of contemporary cul
ture not restricted to China – an apparently unresolvable dispute between fragmen
ted reality of technology on one side and the continuities of traditional order, on
the other. For example, the experience of history has changed from the continual
re-interpretation of what were deemed original conditions to a perception appa
rently inspired by technological innovation: death-and-replacement oriented to an
open, ever-deferred condition of betterment. Vesely poses this conflict as a que
stion, “how to reconcile the inventions and achievements of modern technology,
which have already established their autonomy, with the conditions of human life,
our inherited culture, and the natural world. (Vesely 2004: 7) For the purposes
of this paper, I am designating two orders in conflict: the techno-capitalistic and
the traditional order. As implied by Vesely, we can distinguish these two orders by
the fundamental difference in their understanding of their relation to the natural
environment. Contemporary fragmented reality promotes multiple interpretations
of nature, all apparently of equal value (usually utilitarian). We can say that nature
has in the contemporary culture different incarnations, from scientific and technical
descriptions of material processes with emphasis upon efficiency, to political and
moral concerns for sustainability, to sentimental attachments to views, to animals
and to holidays (that are themselves another “industry”). Establishing communica
tion between these readings remains an open problem.
Traditional order
Within this duality, nature as understood in traditional order has a unique quality
of concrete engagement with situations, objects and people. This condition of en
gagement spawns from cycles of praxis usually connected to agriculture, which are
informative regarding how much land is available, what are the water and weather
conditions, when to plant crops, when to harvest, how to store grain etc. Moreover,
the cycles of praxis are not limited to matters of production, but are inscribed in
rites and ceremonies that include family genealogies, law, religion and art, therefore
consequently instrumental in establishing culture, civic life, architecture. In the con
text of rural China, this translates into ancestral worship, Taoism, Confucianism,
belief in supernatural forces, etc.
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Many studies on the subject of rural urbanization in China show that local village
communities are still in part governed by remnants of these traditional norms and
practices. (Guldin 1997, Leng and Zhu 2010). The civic space of the village is still
enforced through local community, village elders and leaders, that is to an extent
organized on basis of rites, strong family ties, communal law, ancestral temples,
worship, etc. In 1987 this grassroots village organization was translated into a form
of direct democracy by way of an “Organic Law of Village Committees” (Shi 1999).
This instituted the right of people with local village hukou – peasants and villagers –
to elect village-level governance; village chiefs and village committees. This bottom-
up governance is a necessity that enables a state the size of China to operate. The
centralistic top-down governance is met by a bottom up grassroots governance on
the village level. The immediate land surrounding the village becomes a stage set
where traditional (grassroots) and techno-capitalistic (top-down) orders collide. Let
us first look at the typical situations of the two orders separately and then describe
and evaluate the situations arising from their interaction.
Figure 3.
3a: Location of the fragment. 3b: Birds-eye perspective view of a village fragment
(Drawing by Julija Domariska & Tomaz Pipan)
Figure 3c.
Village entrance, path, joss burning furnace, playing mah-jong in the community
building (Images by Tomaz Pipan)
Figure 3d.
Ancestral home, community building, square (Images by Tomaz Pipan)
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The typicality of traditional order can be exemplified through a fragment (figure 3b).
This is a prominent place of the village, surrounded by a fish pond, two ancestral
homes and a public building of the local community. In the communal building
locals play cards, mah-jong and shoot pool most of the time; but the community
building also acts as a place for communal meetings and decision making on all fa
cets of daily life (figure 3c and 3d). As a whole, this can be read as a political – civic
space where disputes and conflicts of the village are discussed and handled. The
arrangement of this typicality is an intrinsically rich organization where horizons
of engagement orbit around topics dealing with family, ancestral worship, history,
culture, management of village, what to do with the land, etc. The morphology and
typology of space is ‘geared’ towards this order. The deeper structure is revealed
through the layering of elements that constitute the area (figure 3c): the entrance
gate has an altar to local gods and an L-shaped entrance, where a visitor has to turn
a corner, because evil spirits can only travel in a straight line. A curvy path leads past
a joss paper furnace for burning offerings onto a square. Here the most prominent
building (the communal building where civic disputes are handled) is lined with an
cestral halls (figure 3d), where villagers go to remember and worship their ancestors
at special occasions.
This shows that remnants of deeply historical conducts still exist and govern a con
temporary traditional order. Even though the contemporary questions orbit around
topics ranging from redistribution of land, rent fees extraction, building a new sha
king hands village, the way these negotiations are handled carries the authority of
tradition. Under these conditions, history is a matter of continual renewal of ori
ginal – inevitably ‘natural’ conditions. However, the traditional civic space is being
challenged by an aggressive techno-capitalist imperative that perceives history in
terms of constant change, destruction and replacement; a continual production for
the sake of economy.
Techno-capitalist order
‘Nature’ as employed by the techno-capitalist order is domain of resource-capitali
sation according to criteria of efficiency, economic profits and losses and maximi
zation of production through serialization and optimization. This order rests upon
hierarchical planning from afar through deputies and instruments such as policies,
aerial plans and drawings, zoning and infrastructure. Decisions are made by the cen
tral government in Beijing, later influenced and executed by regional governments
and deputies.
Techno-capitalist order, it could be argued, “takes account only of that which is su
sceptible to mathematical understanding” (Vesely 2004: 241), where infrastructure
becomes a vehicle through which this mathematical nature can be envisioned, ma
naged and implemented. Nature becomes an abstract idea that can be manipulated
and represented in different ways as flow charts, production targets and quotas. A
detachment from the experience of nature as a part of everyday life is the funda
mental characteristic not only in the raw instrumentality of the planning but also
in the social embodiment of the planning hierarchy. For example, filthy water from
the industries is seen neither by the planners in Beijing who merely define a policy
that the water has to be clean nor by the local managers of regional government and
developers who sip iced tea in fully air conditioned villas.
Calculated, tabulated and graphed, ‘synthetic nature’ enables liberal capitalist world
of economy, fuelled by infrastructure, building a contemporary world of urbani
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zation, a “condition of limitlessness and the complete integration of movement
and communication brought about by capitalism” (Aureli 2011: 9). In Dongguan,
urbanization (as noun) could be divided into ‘infrastructural space’ of migrant wor
kers without decision-making privileges as they do not have a local
status) and private space of decision making elites that rests upon economic impe
ratives. This separation removes the political and civic from the public and moves it
into domain of the regional officials and well-connected local investors / managers
that live in the walled luxurious villa compounds, making deals in restaurants and
‘gentleman clubs’: “…the overt use of money, and spending cause Dongguan’s se
cret space to be used first for spending into pre-liberation activity; the developers’
spending is a release of communist inhibition.” (Smith in Koolhaas 2001: 314) The
power and decision-making structure is based on
local connections that play
guanxi local connections that play guanxi
an important role in making business deals, creating new enterprises or securing
development land (Yeung 2001).
Figure 4.
4a and 4b: Adjacent organization of industrial compounds along
regional infrastructure, creating regional corridors.
(Drawing by Tomaz Pipan redrawn from Google orthographic photographs.)
This described order produces a very efficient and economic organization of
corridors (figure 6, described later in the text) where regional government dicta
tes everything. The efficiency is morphologically palpable (figure 4a and 4b) and
amounts to kilometres of transport infrastructure lined by industrial compounds
intermittently populated by housing and rudimentary services. This reproduction of
efficiency forms a network for transportation of goods and flow of capital.
Figure 5.
5a: Location of the fragment. 5b: Birds-eye perspective view of the industrial
cluster (Drawing by Kristin Krause & Tomaz Pipan)
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Figure 5c.
Low-end shed-housing, canteen and grocery shop, industrial compound entrance,
bicycle repair shop (Images by Tomaz Pipan)
This curious infrastructural space is a place of anonymous, disenfranchised workers;
a fragmented space inhabited by rural-to-urban migrants who have surrendered their
traditional culture for wages. The predominant typologies are industry, dormitories
and primary services that form clusters of social life infused with capitalist working
ethic (figure 5c). Figure 5b shows a typical situation where a cluster is created around
a smaller industrial compound with dorms. This cluster comprises additional hou
sing sheds, a bicycle repair shop, canteen and grocery. These services form a centre
of localized social activity and life. Workers from nearby dorms come here to eat,
fraternise and shoot pool.
All the customary typicalities (like turning a corner at the entrance, the altar, a square
with ancestral halls and communal building) are erased and cannot structure the
individual’s experience. Transport infrastructure and alleys around canteens, grocery
stores and make-shift restaurants take over the function of village squares (figure 5c)
and communal rooms and are imprinted with historical functions as life demands
it – migrant workers are still deeply communal people and their social life was always
manifested on village roads and squares. Although the transport infrastructure pro
vides places to socialize, it ceases to support the political and the civic. Furthermore,
there are no other symbols that would structure and maintain the organization of a
community. Infrastructure, especially as it pertains to contemporary capitalist deve
lopment, has the potential to represent the anonymous whole, however it does not
attract the commitment, solidarity or memory of the traditional city or village.
These two examples show a confrontation between two worlds. An infrastructural
system which neither supports nor requires any civic involvement has been superim
posed upon traditional topographies structured around places of civic resolution of
conflict. The temptation is to suggest that the infrastructural system here embodies
a pure form of capitalist development, unpolluted by civic scruples...and therefore
that the problem raised by the confrontation is inherent to this style of economy.
On this basis we now move to a third example of typicality, the in-between area that
will hopefully show characteristics of both orders and give us a basis for concluding
discussion and speculations on a possible new order.
The composite order
When local government started to develop infrastructure for industrialization led
by foreign direct investment (FDI), agricultural land was taken away from villagers.
They were deprived of a significant portion of their income; and, as compensation,
agricultural land immediately next to the village was deregulated and given over to
village community for management, use and most importantly ownership. Villagers
were now able to build on this land instead of using it solely for growing food. A
new morphology of the area started to take shape, which we can observe today
(figure 6). Regional corridors, organized along new transport infrastructure (figure
6, light grey line) are managed by central and local governments through delegated
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officials. Amidst this graft, we can observe a more loosely connected local topology
(figure 6, black line) spawning from traditional, historic villages (figure 6, red fill)
and connected by traditional elements like ancient ponds (figure 6, grey fill with red
outline) and old roads and paths. Local topology is managed and owned by villages
and their myriad grassroots village committees. The difference between the two
organizations is quite apparent in the morphology, grain size and in the building
typologies as already explained.
Figure 6.
Pattern of negotiation between the Local Topology and Regional Corridor.
(Drawing by Tomaz Pipan redrawn from Google orthographic photographs and historical
Figure 7.
7a: Location of the fragment. 7b: Deregulated land (blue) where building laws are
very relaxed and decision making is in the hands of grassroots village government. (Dra
wing by Tomaz Pipan redrawn from Google orthographic photographs.)
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The deregulated part of land given to local self-governance represents a test bed
for a new type of order (figure 7a). Here grassroots village committees are trying to
reconcile historical with contemporary economic condition – their traditions with
wants and aspirations – by combining virtues and flaws of both orders and finding
a middle way. As these areas do not fall under jurisdiction of the state they do not
have to abide by the building regulations imposed on the regional corridor. This is at
the heart of its morphological fragmentation.
Figure 8.
8a: Location of fragment. 8b: Birds-eye perspective view of the area. Typologies
and typicalities can be attributed to traditional and to techno-capitalistic orders. (Drawings
by Tomaz Pipan)
Figure 8c.
Public space under a tree, re-allotted gardens with shaking hands village in the
This is why typical conditions in these transitional territories are more ambiguous
and can be attributed to both of the previously described orders. Figure 8 is another
example of such territory. This composite condition consists of an area for elder
folk of the village to relax and to converse in the shade of an ancient tree (8c). The
area has been recently upgraded and refurbished. Just next to the lounging area are
vegetable gardens that locals still use for their personal needs. These have been re-
distributed and re-allotted after the last time the village committee decided to rent
out additional land parcels to industries. These parts clearly allude to traditional or
der and to local affinity to agriculture and working with the land. The pond and the
big tree are typical entrance markers of ancient villages. Big old tree as a meeting and
public village spot is also historically relevant (Knapp 1992). However within this
order comes the reality of current economic condition – some of the land was used
to build what is called a shaking-hand village that is usually rented out to migrant
workers, yet another area was rented out to developers who built a paper cardboard
We can see that the range of engagements is much more diverse and refers to tra
ditional and techno-capitalistic horizons of commitment simultay. This in-between
area depends on both orders to exist. It provides the local villagers with means of
economic survival and at the same time preserves at least a tenuous connection to
the land and cultural attachment to history. Throughout this description we observe
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112 | 130
a curious negotiation between the forces of global markets and world economy
on one side and aspirations of the local community on the other. The question is
whether this composite territory offers a potential for reconciling the two orders, or
whether it enhances the conflict.
The local morphology caters for additional housing for migrant workers, the regio
nal corridor gives good access and transport connections that enables local villagers
to rent out space also to industries, shopping malls, etc. Due to its position between
the two orders the morphology is unique and more diverse than any of the pre
viously described typicalities.
In this territory, negotiation is the matrix within which a fundamental question
about the relation of ‘culture’ to ‘nature’ is played out; between exploitation of and
respect for natural conditions, ultimately a question of a civic order which embodies
an ethical interpretation of nature.
3. Discussion
The presented description of orders and their co-habitation opens up many topics
for discussion ranging from questions on social order, civic order and freedom and
on the other side of the spectrum, questions about typology, urban structure and
scale. For the purpose of this paper, we will outline conclusions regarding limits and
opportunities these topographies give in regards to understanding of city as civic
locus and how these topographies refer to scarcity.
Firstly a general overview and summary of the condition is in order. The topo
graphies we are presented with look like a field of fragments created by superimpo
sition of a non-hierarchical infrastructural system of production on top of ancient
pattern of if the historical sea of rice paddies had suddenly grown fac
tories. This is also evident in the mismatch of scales that is a symptom for a mi
smatch of meaning, resulting in the conflict between a vast infrastructure oriented
to streamlined efficiencies (of supply, of production quantity, speed and low cost)
and small nuclei harbouring the remains of an ancient and rich tradition. To this
belongs as well a mismatch of political authority or governance, where the produc
tion-corridors enjoy regional control, and the villages exercise their few options in
the domains left over. The kinds of choices available to the villages are exercised
within the over-arching conflict: they can participate in the capitalisation of the land,
selling off their heritage for short-term profit, in effect supporting the over-arching
motives of an SEA, and they can cultivate surviving customs within the remains
of community buildings, temples, archaic trees, fishponds and allotment gardens.
Finally, the majority of the population is migrant workers, with no political voice,
very austere living-conditions (except for the managers in villas), and no basis for
commitment to a particular segment of the field.
In terms of scarcity, the economic condition of capitalised land-use affects everyo
ne. Scarce as it is on the scale of China, it generates intense pressures for everyone
establishing a basis for competition (how grassroots communities rent out their
land for industry) and sharing (how agricultural land gets re-allotted so that each
villager gets a part to keep up the gardening). These new organizational structures
show how scarcity initiates questions pertaining to moral horizons and how these
might be reconciled. In the case of SER developments in general and the PRD in
particular, these horizons are most commonly portrayed as extravagant abuse of
agricultural land and local people, customs and way of life for imperatives of liberal
capitalism. However, closer inspection reveals a more complex interaction between,
on one hand, developers, state managed infrastructure and economy and on the
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other, traditional settlements and ways of life. The possible composite topographies
– part synthetic and part traditional – show how to think a possible new civic order.
Only time will tell if this composite is anything more than a mishmash of typologies
and fragments of disparate life. Or in words of Vesely: “… complexity is often the
result of an attempt to reconcile different spheres of reality. If reconciliation is suc
cessful, the whole situation may be enriched: if it is not, complexity remains as only
an unfulfilled promise of richness.” (Vesely 2009: 303)
In regards to the limits of what these topographies can and could be. Above all else,
they are quite young, and their possible development is still uncertain and widely
open. In addition, the physical and ontological flattening infrastructural corridors
engender suggests different sets of relations between topography and civic order
as those of classical agora, forum or piazza, where the hierarchy culminates in a
town centre as a civic locus. The infrastructural identity of presented topography
restricts such readings. In a similar manner it is also hard to draw any parallels with
rigorously structured Chinese traditional cities where walls meticulously prescribed
the order, shape and programs of the whole city and each part. However, within the
apparently undifferentiated sprawl of economic efficiency, there are, for example,
shops along the roads and markets tucked away in alleys of the regional corridor
(figure 9) in which one can find fragments of the sort of life generally supported
by towns. The infrastructural urbanization promotes non-hierarchical structuring
of the expanse where pockets of town happen almost sporadically. In the best case,
we might suggest a comparative reading with mature contemporary rural-industrial
conditions like
in Germany or suburban Milan and try to understand que
Ruhrgebiet in Germany or suburban Milan and try to understand queRuhrgebiet
stions regarding the civic and the social through the lens of infrastructural urbaniza
tion that does not resort to the cliché of ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’, but instead strives
to understand city as an ethical interpretation of the natural conditions.
This brings us to a fundamental question whether this condition can be called “city”
at all. In this respect, we believe that examination of the different typicalities from a
close range hint of possible evolution into a long-term and sustainable civic order.
This appears to be the matter of finding hierarchy – similar to a high street – that
achieves cohabitation and continuity with the traditional orders. In addition, the
typology of industrial clusters (concrete frame and infill or platforms and sheds with
service-yards between them) geared towards economic and production efficiency
becomes completely devoid of meaning, which is an advantage. In other words, such
organizations are programme and usage non-specific, which makes them extremely
flexible and adaptable, accommodating change over time easily. Refurbishing and
re-programming old factory compounds has been successful also in mature Chinese
cities. Moreover, our concrete example shows that within this sea of infrastructure, a
seed of traditional and local life persisting in migrant workers and local communities
is always present. This can be seen as a comparative advantage over more settled to
pographies as it offers beginnings to structure the infrastructure hierarchically. This
offers an opportunity to better understand an unresolved question in our own cities
– the potential civic nature of what is too-easily generalised as “industry”.
Speculating upon the future development of such topographies is extremely relevant
especially due to the fact that the present monofunctional industrial “gold rush” ge
ared toward P&A will not self-perpetuate forever. Dongguan is chronically addicted
to FDI which in turn brings in only fresh P&A and no knowledge or sustainable
research for independent development. That is why we believe existing pockets of
local life, tradition and freedom are so important. They represent the kernels of hie
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism
114 | 130
rarchical orders that can help these areas adapt to the inevitable changes and avoid
collapse. However, in order to achieve a significant change, this monofunctional
industrial oriented P&A would need to be connected to research and development
(R&D). This shift can be difficult, especially as academics point out that R&D needs
prime academic and research institutions (Porter 2000, Lai 2004). In addition P&A
so typical for Dongguan does not encourage “knowledge spillovers” which are nee
ded for long term competitiveness, usually attributed to the R&D clusters. Even so,
it helps to understand that innovation works best if it is recognized that knowled
ge is imbedded in the culture whereby the cultures are local and specific. In addi
tion, by retaining agriculture and industrial production, crucial inputs are retained
in the form of skills that inform the innovation environment geared towards rese
arch of these sectors. Consolidating material cultures that are disappearing (such as
fish farming, rice farming, bamboo usage know-how) by preserving the nuclei of
traditional civic life, we hope to offer an unorthodox reinterpretation of regional
corridors and reading of infrastructural economy as a phenomenon. This suggests
a completely different reading of infrastructural landscapes than, for example the
private walled-in self-sufficient company towns like Foxconn in Shenzhen. “In ad
dition to its dozens of assembly lines and dormitories, Longhua has a fire brigade,
hospital and employee swimming pool […] More than 500 monitors around the
campus show exercise programs, worker-safety videos and company news produced
by the in-house television network, Foxconn TV. Even the plant’s manhole covers
are stamped ‘Foxconn.’ ” (Dean 2007). By clustering industry and agriculture with
other more civic activities and institutions one may imagine structures of local col
laboration able to contend with the shifting currents of capitalism and perhaps even
able to again reconcile their vulnerability in history with the natural conditions.
This work is supported by the Ad-Futura Foundation. I thank my mentor Peter
Carl for unconditional support and help, Thomas Chung and Tim Quiang Diang
for contacts, organization and help with the field work and Kristin Krause and Julija
Domariska for the help with the drawings.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Earlier institutionalist studies in Chinese politics have shown how conservatives and local bureaucrats took advantage of institutional designs in the Leninist system of the People's Republic of China to delay and undermine the implementation of reforms. There has been less discussion of how reformers adapted their strategies to existing institutional constraints to overcome the opposition of conservatives. Using the implementation process of the Organic Law of the Village Committees, this article describes how the reformers adapted to the Chinese institutional setting to promote political reform over opposition at the elite and local levels.
Economic geography during an era of global competition involves a paradox. It is widely recognized that changes in technology and competition have diminished many of the traditional roles of location. Yet clusters, or geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, are a striking feature of virtually every national, regional, state, and even metropolitan economy, especially in more advanced nations. The prevalence of clusters reveals important insights about the microeconomics of competition and the role of location in competitive advantage. Even as old reasons for clustering have diminished in importance with globalization, new influences of clusters on competition have taken on growing importance in an increasingly complex, knowledge-based, and dynamic economy. Clusters represent a new way of thinking about national, state, and local economies, and they necessitate new roles for companies, government, and other institutions in enhancing competitiveness.
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of thesis titled Industrial Clusters and Local Competitiveness: A Case Study of Dongguan, China Submitted by LAI Wing Man for the degree of Master of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in September 2004 Since the 1980s, the worldwide technological and political situations have experienced rapid changes. The localization of industries can progress hand in hand with globalization and some large multinational corporations (MNCs) have begun to dominate the world market. Industrial cluster is found in virtually every advanced economy and increasingly in developing countries as well. China, with greater integration with the rest of the world after World Trade Organization (WTO) accession, has become the ideal target for the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of MNCs. Within the Guangdong province in China, Dongguan, after the implementation of the economic reform and the Open Door Policy in 1978, has attracted massive FDI and formed industrial cluster based on its exclusive advantages. The main objectives of this study are to examine the general clustering situations in terms of electronics and telecommunications industry in China and the rationales lead to the development of an industrial cluster in Dongguan. Besides, it also attempts to examine the relationship of the industrial clusters and the local competitiveness. The degree of agglomeration is measured by means of Location Quotient (LQ) and the local competitiveness can be calculated by the equation of Line of Competitiveness (LC) and the variables of GDP, the volume of trade, the overall labour productivity, etc. in electronics industry. By applying an in-depth case study of a mobile phone company, Dongguan Nokia Mobile Co., Ltd., the global supply chain characteristics of an MNC can be well understood. The findings of this study suggest that theoretically, there is a significant positive correlation between agglomeration and competitiveness. The results of Dongguan electronics and telecommunications clusters are not as competitive as we supposed. Clusters in Dongguan have to face severe challenges such as the rise of production costs; the opening of domestic market to the foreigners after China� WTO accession; the rise up of the neighboring city as its keen competitor and the environmental degradation caused by pollution. This study is therefore to provide insights for the governmental agencies to develop policies to upgrade, transform and establish high value-added clusters in order to enhance the regional competitiveness in the wake of globalization.
The Forbidden City of Terry Gou
  • J Dean
Dean J. (2007), "The Forbidden City of Terry Gou" in Wall Street Journal, 11 August Wall Street Journal, 11 August Wall Street Journal 2007.
Great leap forward, Tasche GmbH, Kölen. Great leap forward, Tasche GmbH, Kölen
  • R Koolhaas
  • B Chang
Koolhaas R., Chang B. (2001), Great leap forward, Tasche GmbH, Kölen. Great leap forward, Tasche GmbH, Kölen. Great leap forward
Dynamics of Local Governance in China During the Reform Era
  • T K Leng
  • Y Zhu
Leng T.K., Zhu Y. (2010), Dynamics of Local Governance in China During the Reform Era, Lexington Books, Lanham, MD.