ABSTRACT

As we look back around the world over the last 30 years or so, fewer developments have had more transformative consequences globally and locally, especially in the global south, than the coupling of accelerated globalization and urban growth. While many cities of the global south such as those in India and Africa have been growing rapidly, they do not measure up to the speed and scale at which China’s cities have exploded to massive proportions with dramatic changes in all aspects of urban life. A most striking example: a fishing village called Shenzhen on the border with Hong Kong, with only about 30,000 residents in 1979 when it was designated as China’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ), now stands as an industrial megacity of approximately 12 million people. It became known as an ‘instant city’ that subsequently rose to a second-tier global city (Chen and de’Medici 2012). With many other dynamic cities like Shenzhen, China leads the global south, and the world, in hosting the largest number of cities that have grown most rapidly in the shortest period of time. This historically unprecedented phenomenon poses the question of how to make sense of ‘China’s model’ of urban growth.