The Pearl River Delta/Hong Kong region is one of the fastest growing urban regions in the world.
tourist map PRD/HK sample [0.9 MB]

When the Peoples Republic of China regained control of Hong Kong in 1997, the Pearl River Delta was still a relatively underdeveloped area, while the GNP of Hong Kong (the colony) had exceeded that of England (the colonial power).
At that time, many people feared that the communist system would be instated in Hong Kong, but the Chinese have chosen to maintain the concept of "one country - two systems".
Following the take-over, large numbers of Hong Kong businesses have established themselves in the Pearl River Delta area, due to cheap labor. And many businessmen have assumed a double life with one wife in Hong Kong and another in the Pearl River Delta.
The conflict between a free market economy and a communist regime, between a sophisticated cosmopolitan population and a mainly rural population, has proven to be a formidable incentive for the development of the entire region, now one of the most dynamic and fastest growing regions in the world.
CoMa 2003

CITY OF EXACERBATED DIFFERENCE© (COED©) The traditional city strives for a condition of balance, harmony, and a degree of homogeneity. The CITY OF EXACERBATED DIFFERENCE©, on the contrary, is based on the greatest possible difference between its parts - complementary or competitive. In a climate of permanent strategic panic, what counts in the CITY OF EXACERBATED DIFFERENCE© is not the methodical creation of the ideal, but the opportunistic exploitation of flukes, accidents, and imperfections. Although the model of the CITY OF EXACERBATED DIFFERENCE© appears brutal - to depend on the robustness and primitiveness of its parts - the paradox is that it is, in fact, delicate and sensitive. The slightest modification of any detail requires the readjustment of the whole to reassert the equilibrium of complementary extremes.
Rem Koolhaas; Introduction; Great Leap Forward, 2001

The Great Leap Forward was the first major step toward enacting Mao Zedong's goal of de-urbanization: the industrialization of the countryside and its autonomy from cities. Driven by his belief in the ability of the countryside to transform China, as well as his distrust in the Soviet model, Mao Zedong now rejected the urban while retaining industry solely as a necessary economic factor. Following the Marxist theory of canceling the differences between city and countryside, de-urbanization called for the abolition of cities in favor of "field urbanism", an evenly distributed industry intermingled of agriculture and residential areas.

In 1842, as a result of the Opium War, the British aquired the island of Hong Kong, just south of Guangzhou, as a trading post. More than a century earlier, the island of Macao, only a few miles west of Hong Kong, had been ceded in a similar way, to the Portuguese. Due to their proximity to these colonies, Guangdong Chinese experienced, fortuitously, Western customs and built communities ·
The beginnings of modern China are linked, therefore, to territorial manifestations of an ideological dispute and its modern urban settlements are the results of a bargain. The land concessions in the Pearl River Delta established the idea of a different China -a China of enclaves. There, a new ideology was founded, based on parallel regimes of identities · The enclaves, where modernization has been defined in terms of coexistence rather than overall transformation, harbor the juxtaposition between tradition and Western influence. Inspired by their fortuitous uprooting, many Chinese from the Pearl River Delta became the founders of ethnic communities throughout Southeast Asia and the rest of the world (Chinatowns) ·
The enclaves boast diversity and adaptability. Drawing on Guangzhou's notorious culinary license, anything can be assimilated in the enclaves. Paradigms of exoticism -as much for China as for the West- the enclaves exaggerate the cosmopolitan possibilities of the metropolis. Their extreme contrasts are both programmatic and exemplary. The notorious "walled city" of Hong Kong (the ultimate slum, now demolised) contrasts starkly with the stratospherically priced mansions on Victoria Peak; the welfare paradise of Macao is strikingly set against the gambling economy that fuels it.

The homeland of an international network of overseas Chinese, the Pearl River Delta could provide the foreign capital needed to fuel open-door economic reform while its mercantile background could serve as the foundation of a new socialist market economy ·

Following the precedent of establishing Hong Kong and Macao as concessions for trade with foreigners,the Party chose to adopt the enclave model for these new socialist market experiments, designating select regions in the Pearl River Delta as Special Economic Zones (SEZ). The first SEZ, established in 1980, was Shenzhen (near the China - Hong Kong border), soon followed by its smaller neighbor, Zhuhai, which streches along the border with Macao.

The end of cities is written in their beginning. Eager to achieve perfection, the planners of Utopias only hasten their demise. Their efforts reveal how the history of cities is (only) a series of ideological frames, a dialectic between failed visions and renewed beliefs. Endless combinations of the idea of the city -the result of ever faster changes and a search for technological adaptability- have brought the role of cities, as stable, self-governing communities, to the brink. After having lent their urbanity -their genetic code- and the potential for change to ever more unrestrained formulas, to sprawl, cities seem prepared to disappear at the very moment when urbanization will have arrived at its apogee. Just as ideology vanishes underground, cities seem ready to write their last chapter.
Deng Xiaoping's reform gave a new meaning to Mao Zedong's arduous efforts to cancel the differences between city and countryside. The cadre-managers of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, guided by INFRARED © [Driven underground by the forces of global economy, the Chinese Communist Party safeguards its totalitarian ideology by moving into the invisible spectrum of politics.] ideology, proved that urbanization could succeed without a doctrine of the city. Streamlined as a simple conduit for capital, infrastructure and speed, the linear urbanization in the Pearl River Delta established a model for the rapid modernization of the countryside. Released from its former red obligations to control, urbanization was made entirely dependent on the demands of the socialist market economy.

The modernization of the Pearl River Delta generates ever greater quantities, preparing cadres and planners for the next campaign: after the ZONE © [is preferred by the Chinese Communist Party over "city", because it is conceptually blank],the region.

Mihai Craciun; Ideology; Great Leap Forward, 2001

On the one hand, rapid industrialization and urbanization in China furthered the material interests of Cities. On the other hand, there have been many urban problems. First, the concentration of the metropolises' populations has driven population density to become extremely high. Second, the transportation networks in the old cities are insufficient. The cities are also axperiencing water shortages. Aquifers are overexploited. In addition, air pollution and noise pollution are getting worse. These problems reduce the quality of the envirionment, affect people's physical and psychological health, disturb residents' work and life routines, reduce work efficiency, and restrict the development of the economy. Third, the structure of land use is irrational. The proportion of industrial land use is too high relative to residential and services land use. The paucity of public green land is especially problematic. In addition, metropolises continuously expand, absorbing large tracts of arable land.
Nearly all metropolises have constructed hi-tech parks, resulting in overbuilding, duplication, and wasted resources. The developmental strategies of each park are the same. For example, both Shenzhen and Guangzhou proposed that they will create a "Silicon Valley" for Guangdong Province. Evidently, the construction of two Silicon Valleys 100 miles apart is unnecessary and redundant.

Xiaopei Yan, Li Jia, Jianping Li, and Jizhuan Weng; The Development of the Chinese Metropolis in the Period of Transition; The New Chinese Cities, 2002

The emergence of the HK/PRD [Hong Kong / Pearl River Delta] urban region has been the outcome of simultaneous processes of territorial integration and separation. To some extent, the effectiveness of economic integration has been dependent on the maintenance of separation · By contrast, rapid integration made it much harder for Germany to take advantage of factor complementarities while integrating the former East Germany · Maintenance of seperations in an otherwise closely integrated urban region creates a kind of "osmotic pressure," which encourages transgressions by people whose movement is restricted.
[if] the primary advantage of spatial concentration is the creation of trust through repeated interaction and personeal contact, then it may be possible that other social structures which increase trust and interaction could serve as a substitute for the spatial proximity of suppliers, producers and buyers. We will argue that ethnic and family ties in Chinese production possibly provide such a substitute. (Christerson and Lever-Tracy, 1997, p.571)
Cross-border integration and the extension of activities and networks into a transnational social field almost invariably create a variety of transgressive movements, including sex tourism, second wives, illegal immigration, smuggling, and quasi-legal real estate development practices · borders remain crucial in structuring activities which transgress them. Indeed, many such activities are actually impelled by the existence of the border.

Alan Smart; The Hong Kong / Pearl River Delta Urban Region: An Emerging Transnational Mode of Regulation or Just Muddling Through?; The New Chinese Cities, 2002

· the old seperation between city and countryside is now replaced by new barriers which segregate urban migrants economically and socially from permanent residents within cities. The background to this dividing line is still the dual hukou system, which denies migrants a permanent stay in the cities and, linked to this, access to housing, medical care, pensions, and more qualified and stable job opportunities.
Most migrant peasants are socially isolated because of their dialect, education, clothes, and eating habits. This social isolation is intensified by a spatial segregation, since many migrants not only live together in urban "villages," but also are together at their workplace ·
Settled migrants inform their fellow newcomers about job possibilities, introduce them to their own bosses, or offer them accomodation. This close social network, mainly based on kinship and same area of origin, creates migrant enclaves, often named after the sending province.

Fan Jie and Wolfgang Taubmann; Migrant Enclaves in Large Chinese Cities; The New Chinese Cities, 2002

Despite the dramatic growth and restructuring of this regional economy, the level of urbanization (defined as the proportion of the urban or non-agricultural population in the total population) in most places has remained moderate, and population concentration in large cities has been limitied. Instead of a high concentration of population in the cities, particularly large cities where agglomeration economies operate, what is more remarkable in the PRD has been a spontaneous industrialization and urbanization of the countryside. This rural and region-based urbanization, described as "urban-rural integration" · is the complex outcome of the interaction between various local and global forces.
· regional inequality in terms of productivity and income for the PRD widened further during the 1980s · the mobility of the population has significantly increased · Of the 3.8 million population in Shenzhen in 1997, for instance, 2.7 million or over two-thirds of the total lived and worked there on a temporary basis · In Dongguan, the number of temporary residents (1.42 million) was almost identical to the number of local residents (1.43 million).
A large proportion of the people who live in towns continue with their agricultural pursuits. There are also people who live in the countryside within these "cities", but are actually working in the non-agricultural sectors. Of the total population of the "city" of Dongguan in 1995, for instance, only 24.6 percent were classified as non-agricultural people · Consequently, these newly emerged "cities" are actually a distinct form of settlement in which industry and agriculture or urban and rural activities are intensively mixed.

George C. S. Lin; Region-based Urbanization in Post-reform China: Spatial Restructuring in the Pearl River Delta; The New Chinese Cities, 2002

Chuihua Judy Chung, Jeffrey Inaba, Rem Koolhaas and Sze Tsung Leong (ed.); Great Leap Forward, 2001
John R. Logan (ed.); The New Chinese City - Globalization and Market Reform, 2002

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