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Mega-City One
January 29, 2011 12:08 AM   Subscribe


 
New Chusan?
posted by Eideteker at 12:13 AM on January 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


It would probably happen anyway - kind of like Tokyo sprawled out. Politically I wonder how you could manage a conurbation that big.

I remember the first time I saw Shenzhen from a hilltop just near the Hong Kong border. I had to remind my self that in just 30 years Senzhen had transformed from a village of 30,000 people to a city of 10 million, bigger than Hong Kong.
posted by awfurby at 12:16 AM on January 29, 2011


If they're going to go that far, why not include Hong Kong, too? Is that some consequence of the "special administrative region" thing?
posted by Rhaomi at 12:17 AM on January 29, 2011


My understanding of the Chinese political system is pretty limited, but I believe the biggest cities are directly controlled by the central government (they are not part of any province). The provincial governments frequently disobey orders from the central government, and are said to be responsible for a lot of bribery, incompetence, and corruption -- and in some cases have experimented with holding elections for low-level posts. I imagine creating this mega-city is an easy way for the central government to bring more people under its direct control.
posted by miyabo at 12:43 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Crosstown traffic's gonna be a bitch.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:08 AM on January 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Total investment in urban infrastructure over the next five years is expected to hit £685 billion, according to an estimate by the British Chamber of Commerce, with an additional £300 billion spend on high speed rail and £70 billion on urban transport.

Oh, are we supposed to be impressed? I mean, we think nothing of throwing that kind of money down shit-stupid wars with no defined objective, so just imagine what OUR investment in urban transportation and modern infrastructure must be like, eh?

...what?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:09 AM on January 29, 2011 [28 favorites]


Not only is traffic going to be screwed up, but the bicycle riders worst Nightmare will probably come true, the Pothole. The filling of potholes will be months behind, usually a trip to a hospital is the result of running into a deep pothole and flying through the air landing on a hard surface or worse bouncing off parked cars. A good example is the city of Los Angeles that can not catch up in filing the pothole problem and the city population is only a few million and much smaller compared to the new vast size of China's River Cities put together. Do they have Bike Lanes over there?
posted by tustinrick at 1:23 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sitting here in Zhuhai for my second month long visit since last summer I can assure you they have excellent bicycle lanes. The area is non stop building. Here they are filling in the ocean to build more factories, and these are not toy or low cost goods factories but for items much further up the manufacturing feed chain. It was much easier for my wife and I to start and build a factory here for renewable energy items here than it was in the US. The US needs to reverse the movement towards the right and the abdication of control by the government to control by corporations or within the next generation there will only be a country of serfs left.
posted by mss at 1:36 AM on January 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


I believe the biggest cities are directly controlled by the central government
Yep, they call them 直辖市 and although it would make continued urban expansion easier it's largely an administrative move as the official who talks about common access to services implies - Chongqing was separated off fom Sichuan province to create one of the existing directly controlled municipalities, but much of it remains suburban/rural.
posted by Abiezer at 1:37 AM on January 29, 2011


Should say, 'on the face of it largely an administrative move' as for some strange reason the authorities don't consult me on these important matters.
posted by Abiezer at 1:42 AM on January 29, 2011


A metropolis twice the size of Wales
posted by fullerine at 1:45 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Twice the size, but it'll never compete on close choral singing or farmer-poets winning eisteddfodau.
posted by Abiezer at 1:47 AM on January 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


It was much easier for my wife and I to start and build a factory here for renewable energy items here than it was in the US.

mss, how much of this recent furore over rare earths (and their use in clean technologies) have anything to do with this aspect? Just curious.
posted by infini at 1:48 AM on January 29, 2011


However, he said no name had been chosen for the area.

How about "Really big motherfucking Chinese city."
posted by CNNInternational at 1:54 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about "Really big motherfucking Chinese city."

The problem with that is if you say it with the wrong intonation it means "Stars and Stripes forever and surcharge".
posted by doublehappy at 2:14 AM on January 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Mega-City One

And that's just One. Wait till Two and Three.

We'll all be living in the same city, but the politics between districts will be intense.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:15 AM on January 29, 2011


Rhaomi: "If they're going to go that far, why not include Hong Kong, too? Is that some consequence of the "special administrative region" thing"

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will stay separate until 2047 under the handover agreement of 1997, after which it's anyone's guess what the motherland will do.

Currently the border is maintained and mainland citizens must get permission to visit Hong Kong. Foreigners like me still need to get visas in our passports, even if we are permanent residents, because we are not Chinese citizens (unless we apply to be and renounce our current citizenship, which Hell no, I would never do).

I'm glad this arrangement is as it is, because if the border were abolished the resulting flood of incoming bodies would hurt this city. There just isn't enough room to accommodate a few million new people all at once. Any change is going to have to be gradual.

So please, no, don't add the Big Lychee to this new megametropolis.

At least not yet.
posted by bwg at 2:26 AM on January 29, 2011


Isn't this effectively a city the way the US has states? (Not discounting that China has states as well.) Clearly, there's too much between space in between the existing cities for things to change in any meaningful way... that'd be a bit like calling everything in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Tucson, and the Inland Empire some new city...
posted by disillusioned at 2:37 AM on January 29, 2011


Apparently Chinese cities are more like autonomous subunits of the country, rather subunits of a state. So unlike the U.S. where New York City is a city in NY state cities like Chicago, LA and NYC would basically be like independent states with authority over their surrounding areas. So calling this a 42 million person city a "city" is kind of a misnomer. They may be putting all these places under the same government, but that's no different then a U.S. state with multiple large cities like California or Texas (although with a smaller area, I guess)

Zhaoqing to Huizho is about 124 miles. Philidalphia to NYC is just 74 miles, so if you did something like this on the east coast of the U.S. you could probably get about 42 million people. But people would be reticent to call it a 'city'. Also it would be completely politically unworkable.
The US needs to reverse the movement towards the right and the abdication of control by the government to control by corporations or within the next generation there will only be a country of serfs left.
Uh... I'm pretty sure China has 'serfs'. In fact, in a much more literal sense because China controls internal migration. You can't legally just get in your car and move from a village to a city just because you feel like it, you're literally tied to the land. Among quite a few other problems for rural Chinese. A lot of this development is coming at their expense. China's enforced Yuan devaluation (tying it to a devaluing dollar) is preventing their savings from going up in value, etc. Poor people in urban areas have their houses demolished, etc.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Philidalphia to NYC is just 74 miles, so if you did something like this on the east coast of the U.S. you could probably get about 42 million people. But people would be reticent to call it a 'city'.

See also: William Gibson's "Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis" (a.k.a. "the Sprawl").
posted by acb at 4:30 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


A metropolis twice the size of Wales

Which is, as any fule kno, the standard British unit of area, and from which we derive units from the nWales to the kWales.
posted by Dim Siawns at 4:50 AM on January 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's going to get awful crowded here. I was just enjoying the quieter roads since half of Shenzhen has already gone home for the New Year, imagine what New Year migration will be like with that many people.
posted by arcticseal at 4:54 AM on January 29, 2011


you're literally tied to the land
I'm imagining poor Chinese farmers, surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers, but tied down by a million thin strings like Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels
posted by slater at 5:22 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"We cannot just name it after one of the existing cities."

Fifty Yuan says they're going to name it something really hard for Westerners to pronounce. Then we can revisit the Peiping/Peking/Beijing confusion.

And yes, they have excellent bike lanes in most of the cities. They are great for parking your Buick in.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:31 AM on January 29, 2011


They are great for parking your Buick in.
So true; just cycled back from having my tea and the lovely 3-metre-wide bike lane up the main street was entirely full of parked cars. Our wee alley was widened a couple of years back, which has now allowed parking on both sides of the street rather than the just one of previously, so there's actually less usable road space.
posted by Abiezer at 5:36 AM on January 29, 2011


Kirth Gerson: "Fifty Yuan says they're going to name it something really hard for Westerners to pronounce."

Something that requires you to swallow your tongue to say properly.
posted by bwg at 5:41 AM on January 29, 2011


A metropolis twice the size of Wales ... Which is, as any fule kno, the standard British unit of area

The US equivalent is, of course, Texas. The continental Europeans have a number of denominations, including Belgium and Germany. Australia, meanwhile, doesn't have a unit of area per se, but compensates for this with the sydharb, a unit of volume equivalent to Sydney Harbour.
posted by acb at 5:49 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


the standard British unit of area

On a related note, the standard unit for measuring boredom is the Rainy Sunday Afternoon In Northern Wales.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:11 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where can a tourist find a good Chinese restaurant there? Jewish deli?
posted by Postroad at 6:15 AM on January 29, 2011


See also: William Gibson's "Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis" (a.k.a. "the Sprawl").

Mm. Got that song in my head.
posted by limeonaire at 6:45 AM on January 29, 2011


Why don't they ask the kids at Tiananmen square?.
posted by Senator at 7:04 AM on January 29, 2011


I can't see this happen. The amount of control the city-state would have over itself and the population it presides over would be too much of a risk to the CCP. They already have enough problems with city mayors and governors who don't toe the party line.

---- (derail) ----

delmoi: You can't legally just get in your car and move from a village to a city just because you feel like it, you're literally tied to the land

slater: I'm imagining poor Chinese farmers, surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers, but tied down by a million thin strings like Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels

Or to provide some nuance to what delmoi said: rural farmers are effectively tied to their land but are according to the law free to move anywhere they want.

In reality the household system only allows very few rural migrants to change their registration from rural to [their adopted] city and without that change in household registration, you do not get any social support or access that citizens of the city enjoy or allowed to even enrol your kids for school. In theory if you had enough money, you can buy your city residency and give up your rural land but the cost is out of reach for anyone that had to move to the city for work in the first place (and a raw deal too having to give up land).

The PRC is still a socialist country in many aspects so that lack of social support is quite brutal, making this an effective migration control that prevents most migrants from taking up permanent residency. City administrators like the cheap labour but bemoan the strain they put on city infrastructure.

Thirty years ago though, this would be very much the "your papers please" type of deal.
posted by tksh at 7:32 AM on January 29, 2011


I recommend the precise and articulate tinfoil crazy of the first comment under the linked article, a discourse on the Yellow Peril.

. . . Genghis Khan will be back, but not with swords, bows and arrows. Neither will he have to sleep astride his horse. He will have your beds.

Sounds hot.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know this will never happen in the States because they're using "invest" and "infrastructure" in the same sentence.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:09 AM on January 29, 2011


In reality the household system only allows very few rural migrants to change their registration from rural to [their adopted] city and without that change in household registration, you do not get any social support or access that citizens of the city enjoy or allowed to even enrol your kids for school.
That's a bit out of date now - hukou registration has opened up in many second- and third-tier cities, but as it says at that linked article, of course most people want to work or are working in the bigger metropolises where it's a much more mixed picture and pretty much as crap as ever (there is often a blind eye turned, but that's hardly a substitute for your rights).
posted by Abiezer at 10:05 AM on January 29, 2011


"Why don't they ask the kids at Tiananmen square?.

Because...

They are dead, just like the kids at Kent State.

Back to the article, the numbers just confound me. It seems this mega city will have nearly the same population as the United States. I haven't checked the US Population since I was a kid, but (overmoisturized geezer, sorry I digress), it used to be just under 300 million in the US. So in 2010 it was about 308 million. Good job America keeping the numbers down, over the last 40 years!

I am all over the road in this post, but the state I live in has the highest birthrate in the US, but only about two million people. We, however, have world class bad air. Our urban planning has to do with letting industry destroy our quality of life for profit. Essentially there is no urban planning in Utah, except for facilitating more destruction of the environment for profit. This Saturday, the air has a bad flavor.

Still I am agog at the sheer numbers involved in the creation of this city. I am also pleasantly amazed at the fact that actual planning can happen at this scale. In an innocuous meeting a professional woman was talking about young families who live in apartments, who somehow will have failed if they don't make it into a private home, later. So the myth of infinite resources is still promoted in the US as if we want to be as populated as China is. We won't survive an upsurge of population in this state, if they don't plan.

Imagine this cars in my state will have to have oxygen generation and air filtration systems, to allow a survivable commute relatively soon.
posted by Oyéah at 10:32 AM on January 29, 2011


While this is indeed big, jaw-dropping and, given the existing state of infrastructure (my favourite bit: hydrofoils!) in the Pearl Valley Delta, will certainly be impressive and all that, thought I'd mention that this would _not_ be the world's largest city by surface area. That would be Jiuquan, in north-west China; the prefecture-level city covers "500 km from east to west, occupying 191,342 km²", per Wikipedia. It would also not be the second-largest city in the world, which at 61,659 sq miles is Altamira in Brazil. This new Pearl-valley "city", in comparison, is a "mere" 16,000 square miles, or about 41,439.8098 sq kilometers.

Obviously clearly defining what is part of a city and what isn't is prone to much discussion, but here's an Indian perspective: we're already getting there. And ironically, we're getting there in the traditionally-sparsely-populated Deccan plateau, a region that was once considered the second most sparsely populated region in India after the Thar desert, but is now home to the fifth, sixth and seventh-most populous metropolitan areas in India, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune respectively.

These are cities that expanding rapidly, and could very well drive the notion of what urban living means in India. The areas under the purview of their respective development authorities, "greater Bangalore" and "greater Hyderabad", are already 9000-odd square kilometres and 7073 square kilometres respectively, which already should have made it to this list.

However, that is not all: in the event that the central government accepts the contentious Option #3 in the Sri Krishna Committee Report, then the area administered as 'Hyderabad' would be expanded to 39,745 square kilometres, incorporating 18,432 sq km and 14240 sq km from neighbouring districts. The city would also become a "Union Territory", governed directly from Delhi. Not all of the land would be urbanized, of course; for instance, only a mere 10% of Hyderabad's agglomeration even under current metrics is heavily urbanized. Still, the prospect of rapid urbanization clearly exists.

While Union Territories have had higher per-capita incomes that most states, it's possible that there's a selection-bias; India's metro areas would have higher per-capita incomes in general than their hinterlands. Additionally, this idea has a surprising amount of resistance; for one, there is some historical baggage that people have taken an interest in. For another, and here's the takeaway for this thread, they want self-rule; administration by Delhi would take control away from elected politicians and take it to otherwise unaccountable bureaucrats.
posted by the cydonian at 10:33 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oyéah: "We, however, have world class bad air... in Utah".

You really, really don't.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:07 AM on January 29, 2011


Upon first reading, the proposal doesn’t make much sense as the Pearl River Delta region has done an excellent job already of linking transportation and infrastructure among its different cities- so why the need to amalgamate into one city?

Yet the intention of the integration becomes clear when Ma Xiangming, the chief planner at the Guangdong Rural and Urban Planning Institute, articulates that:

“The idea is that when the cities are integrated, the residents can travel around freely and use the health care and other facilities in the different areas.“

This is the key. The Chinese government still enforces the hukou household registration system for its citizens, making it difficult for people who move from one city to another to use the services offered by their new city. Restrictions for migrants to new cities are not only limited to healthcare and educational services, but to investment opportunities as well such as starting a business or purchasing a new home.

posted by dhartung at 11:16 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not meaning to get "off thread" but Utah really does...



The pearly cloud of nastiness you see in the video, is the air over the Salt Lake Valley. The auto industry, and industries, do not want pollution controls, or mass transit, their management just wants to live in the valleys above the pollution, at least for the winter inversion.

Without urban planning with the inhabitants well being in mind, things go to a primordial state, like volcanic haze. I have heard about that cloud that lingers over India, and pushes back up the Himalaya in one season, and goes out to sea for another. I have seen the photos of masked dwellers of Chinese industrial cities.

We still have bad air, and no feasible plan for remedy. Urban planning, is good stuff.
posted by Oyéah at 11:19 AM on January 29, 2011




It feels slightly like an attempt to placate separatist elements. Wish I spoke Cantonese, so I could understand local discussion about the project.
posted by jiawen at 11:34 AM on January 29, 2011


China denies plan to create world's biggest city.
"The reports were totally false. There is no such plan," Guo Yuewen, spokesman for the Communist party's provincial committee, was quoted as saying by the official China Daily on Saturday.
posted by yz at 12:36 PM on January 29, 2011


The China Daily story offers a little more background:

No ambitious merge plans in S China province
"I can only say that Guangdong province is improving integration of infrastructure, industries, urban-rural planning, environmental protection and basic public services in the delta region," Guo said.

The integration was in line with the Outline of Planning of the Pearl River Delta Region Reform and Development (2008-2020), passed by the central government in December 2008, according to Guo.
posted by yz at 12:53 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me that China is like the Google of nations: they do things that by sheer size of population occur on a scale which is hard for the rest of us to even imagine.
posted by hincandenza at 2:51 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did rather wonder whether there was less to this than first appeared. (Locally, the DOT has announced plans for public input hearings on future development of a state highway corridor, and everyone leapt to the conclusion it was going to be physically reconstructed soon.) Integrated planning does not a formal merger make.
posted by dhartung at 3:06 PM on January 29, 2011


Reminds of me of the great sci-fi book, Nueromancer, by william gibson -
where the main is call bama - boston atlanta metrpolitian area
posted by Flood at 6:50 PM on January 29, 2011


It seems this mega city will have nearly the same population as the United States.

40ish million is rather less than 300ish million.
posted by kmz at 10:16 PM on January 29, 2011


i think this is where the population confusion came in...

In the north, the area around Beijing and Tianjin, two of China's most important cities, is being ringed with a network of high-speed railways that will create a super-urban area known as the Bohai Economic Rim. Its population could be as high as 260 million.
posted by rainperimeter at 1:25 AM on January 30, 2011


I for one welcome our Chinese overlo-- Oh wait.
posted by Theta States at 7:03 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Crosstown traffic's gonna be a bitch.

"...'harmonised local policies, and a rationalised metropolitan system of governance. And America could learn something from this' ...I would say the key merit of this plan isn't just the possibility for more coherent regional planning (it might work out well, or the planning might be out of touch and inept) so much as it is the deliberate desire to keep filling in China's most prosperous, highest-productivity area. And it's quite reasonable to expect people to continue flowing away from the poor countryside to opportunity in richer areas..."

think metro, i guess...

"Several states noted that a shorter workweek was one of the reasons for fewer layoffs."
posted by kliuless at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2011


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