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From Exceptions to Region in Pearl River Delta - Part II

One can look at the PRD region as an agglomeration of territories of exception; because, all the villages / enclaves / zones have their own rules for production, finance, and citizenship. The map below, made by Rural Urban Framework in 2006, shows the 'villages' of Guangdong and Guangxi, which I think could also be considered as exceptional territories. Earlier, Rem Koolhaas1 named them as 'enclaves', Keller Easterling as 'zones'.2

Urban villages are another form of these exceptional territories. Farmers were given the right to their land during the period of reformation, while everything else belonged to the State. Therefore, to this day, urban villages are collectively owned and managed by the village cooperatives. The high-rise apartments in the photos used to be single-story, single-family, owner-occupied housing, while nowadays the residents of urban villages are the migrant workers of the factories. In this case, the village becomes a feudal territory, where the decision-making belongs to the cooperative, as the landlords, who do not live in the village anymore. They can make decisions on the village collectively, while the migrant workers, the actual residents of the villages, who are not legally citizens of the villages, nor of Shenzhen, have no say.

Qianhai3 was defined as another exceptional territory in 2012, and will have special dedicated financial, taxation, labour, education, healthcare, and telecommunication structures, for international banks in Hong Kong to set up their branches in China. Last year, Field Operations4 announced their winning proposal for Qianhai as 'Qianhai Water City', using the same generic words and phrases used in the contemporary lexicon of urbanism, i.e. "a vibrant new city on 4,500 acres of reclaimed land – a city that is dense, compact, mixed, sustainable and centered around the water". Similarly, in early 2017, the Lok Ma Chau Loop5 was announced as having become an innovation and technology park located in Hong Kong's New Territories, on the Sham Chun River. The course of flow of this river was changed in the 1990s, creating a niche of land on the Hong Kong side, but belonging to China. This caused a territorial dispute between the administrations of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In the end, the decision was to make a technology park in Lok Ma Chau, for Shenzhen businesses, with all the benefits of being in Hong Kong. The proposed technology park is located in a current green land area, a buffer zone between the urban textures of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. A loss of 4 000 trees, 11 hectares of reed marsh and 9 hectares of ponds is expected for the development Lok Ma Chau Loop. In these two examples, we also see a merging of industrial and knowledge economies of technology and IT. The exceptional territory begins to incorporate a full complement of residential, educational, commercial and administrative programmes, based on infrastructure, exemptions, and incentives.

Qianhai Water City by Field Operations on Vimeo.

1 — Judy Chung Chuihua, Jeffrey Inaba, Rem Koolhaas, Sze Tsung Leong (eds.), 2002, Great Leap Forward, Taschen, Cologne.

2 — Guangdong and Guangxi urban villages map by Rural Urban Framework

Shuiwei and Nantou urban villages

3 — Li, S. 2017, "Qianhai tipped to develop into world's largest core business centre", South China Morning Post, 12 September, viewed 1 February 2018.

4 — Qianhai Water City project, Field Operations, viewed 1 February 2018.

Lok Ma Chau Loop. Source: South China Morning Post.
Posted 19 Mar 2018
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