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Edited by Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson

The trajectory and logic of urban development in post-Mao China have been shaped and defined by the contention between domestic and global capital, central and local state and social actors of different class status and endowment. This urban transformation process of historic proportion entails new rules for distribution and negotiation, novel perceptions of citizenship, as well as room for unprecedented spontaneity and creativity. Based on original research by leading experts, this book offers an updated and nuanced analysis of the new logic of urban governance and its implications.
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Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson

Urban China has undergone seismic change in its physical and socioeconomic landscape over the last four decades. Urban life in Mao’s China was simply an extension of the regime’s faith in the superiority of teleological planning, and Chinese cities were given a central role in the socialist industrialization programme. All aspects of urban existence were organized along the imperative of production. Urban architectural landscapes were characterized by buildings of monotonous design and prosaic outlook. The ethos of egalitarianism inherent in Soviet practices and the functionality logic of Le Corbusier’s modernist principles of design determined the allocation of space. Scarcity was permanent, with the rationing system effectively restricting personal consumption to subsistence level, lest excessive personal indulgence misappropriate resources for unproductive purposes and thus decelerate the pace of the industrialization programme. Urban life was in general highly organized, disciplined and mundane, with expression of individuality severely circumscribed by politics and material conditions. Yet most urban dwellers probably felt blessed with their ‘privilege’ of residing in the cities, aware as they were of the deprivation and desperation of the Chinese peasantry. The concomitant operation of centralized control over employment through the work unit system (danwei) and the unified job allocation arrangement, and the effective regulation of personal movement through the residential permit system (hukou), powerfully sustained the impermeability of the rural-urban divide.

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Pui-yin Ho

Hong Kong’s planning in 1979 was at first a response to the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy in China, adjusting Hong Kong’s economic structure from manufacturing industry to the enhancement of entrepôt trade and financial activities. China and Britain began talks on the return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997 in the early 1980s. As Britain’s hope for the right to rule in exchange for sovereignty did not come to fruition, the colonial government promptly cancelled plans to build a new airport and opted instead to expand Kai Tak Airport to address short-term needs. Hong Kong’s economy plunged following the democracy movement incidents in May and June of 1989. The government launched the 100 billion Hong Kong dollar Airport Core Programme to boost the economy. With a sizeable transportation network, the city was able to expand considerably.

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Pui-yin Ho

Urban planning and development are important elements in enhancing the competitiveness of Hong Kong. In the 1990s, West Kowloon and South East Kowloon were the focus areas to alleviate congestion in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. North West and North East New Territories were given development priority. Great importance was attached to the living quality of residents. Consideration was given to population density, green space ratio, air quality, and the protection of traditional agricultural practices and the natural environment. As an economic powerhouse in southern China, Hong Kong has to take into account the needs of neighbouring regions in the expansion of its urban territory and trade activities. Transport facilities for sea and land networks and a boundary control point connecting Hong Kong to eastern Guangdong Province will be added to strengthen ties between Hong Kong and the Mainland. This represented a major change in Hong Kong’s development strategy after its return to China.

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Pui-yin Ho

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Pui-yin Ho

In 1843, the British colonial government in Hong Kong designated the northern coast of Hong Kong Island as the City of Victoria. Hindered by natural resource shortages and a poor natural environment, the government had to make use of new construction techniques and infrastructure to solve daily life problems, which included housing, transport facilities, water supply, law and order and public hygiene. The city was managed with two completely differently strategies. The Central District was mainly modelled on what was practised in the West. Commercial activities and trade were conducted in a systematic manner, and the enactment and strict enforcement of laws were key to the implementation of policies. However, the densely populated area of Sheung Wan, located in the western part of the city and inhabited by the Chinese community, was blighted by poor housing and hygiene conditions as well as high crime rates.

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Pui-yin Ho

Under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory signed in 1898, the land north of Boundary Street and south of the Shenzhen River was leased for a period of 99 years. Long-term urban planning in New Kowloon was implemented to manage rapid population growth and land use. The establishment of the Town Planning Committee in 1922 and promulgation of the Town Planning Ordinance in 1939 enabled the formulation of the long-term development of Hong Kong as Britain’s bridgehead in the Asia-Pacific region. The various proposals by three governors – Clementi, Peel and Northcote – since the late 1920s, which included the extension of land leases without reaching agreement with China and the purchase of the New Territories for 20 million pounds sterling, reflected Britain’s anxiety on the return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997. Faced with a choice between politics and economic interests, Britain chose national prestige over economic development.

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Pui-yin Ho

The Japanese rejected Hong Kong’s pre-war development experience and made drastic changes to the city by turning Hong Kong into Japan’s transport hub in the Pacific region, as well as a resource supply station for its Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. Using Hong Kong’s advantageous geographical location to develop trade was no longer the focus of the city. As opening up the city to foreign trade would make the situation difficult to control, commercial activities were completely banned. However, significant investment was made on Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon City to facilitate the transport of military equipment. To make the city self-sufficient in resources, an evacuation policy was implemented to forcibly repatriate Chinese residents to their home towns, and the forestry and agriculture industry was vigorously promoted. Those who survived the war were left destitute and homeless. The city was scarred by many indelible and painful memories of this period of history.

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Ling Kar-kan

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Pui-yin Ho

Post-war urban planning in Hong Kong was arduous and full of challenges: insufficient land resources in the city, shortage of economic resources, and an unstable global political situation. Planning for political and commercial uses such as government administrative centres, cultural centres, transport interchanges, distribution of offensive trades, heavy industrial areas, manufacturing industrial areas and distribution of public housing areas was mainly aimed at coordinating with the development of core districts and formulated according to the respective geographical conditions of each district so that they each could fully realise their potential and fit in with the overall development of the city. The effective planning and development of external transport enhanced Hong Kong’s status in entrepôt trade, while the city’s internal transport diverted the population from densely populated urban areas to new towns in the New Territories, reinforcing the post-war strategy of developing manufacturing industries with immediate impacts.