The Asian Mediterranean
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The Asian Mediterranean

Port Cities and Trading Networks in China, Japan and Southeast Asia, 13th–21st Century

François Gipouloux

This insightful book draws upon a wide range of disciplines – political economy, geography and international relations – to examine how Asia has returned to its central position in the world economy.
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Chapter 12: Chinese Coastal Cities Confronting the Challenge of Globalisation

François Gipouloux


Paralysed during the Pacific war, the main Chinese port cities subsequently experienced a long period of hibernation during the four decades that followed the takeover by the Communist Party in 1949. The open ports no longer existed. All the extraterritorial areas had been returned to China in 1945, and a different conception of the city, governed by administrative and political criteria, became prevalent under the communist authorities. This conception re-connected with certain components of the traditional Chinese city. Let us review its main characteristics. THE TWO PATTERNS OF CHINESE URBANISATION: ‘CENTRAL PLACES’ AND ‘NETWORKS OF CITIES’ What we usually refer to as a city has its origins in the medieval commune. This form of urban establishment appeared in northern Italy in the 11th century and quickly spread to France, Germany and the Netherlands. Weber and Pirenne, each in his own way, have described the characteristic traits that distinguish the city from earlier urban settlements, such as the burgh. To be considered as such, according to Weber, a city must have ‘fortifications, a market, a court of law, an area over which it has at least partially autonomous jurisdiction, some form of association and an administration elected by the burghers’.1 Pirenne, for his part, mentions the demands for autonomy on the part of the merchants, who sought personal freedom to come and go, that is freedom of movement; the benefits of special legislation that made it possible to escape the many different areas of jurisdiction which could interfere with various aspects...

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