Guangzhou University City
Another Megaproject in China! Guangzhou University City! Last Saturday and Sunday, I visited there with my colleague and students.
Zhang Dejiang, the Secretrary of Guangdong Province Party Committee, decided to launch this project in 2001. He was not happy about the ratio of university students and university in Guangdong was below the national average despite its huge wealth. He felt compelled to turn Guangdong into a "Big Cultural Province"(文化大省). The construction of the Phase I began in 2003 and finished in 2004. A very typical way of building city in China. The provincial government invested 30 billion yuan. Now ten higher education institution have already came in and it accomodate about 150,000 students.
Yet this project, covering a total area of 17 square kilometre, is also a part of the new wave of "Enclosure" in China. The site was an isolated island in Panyu, the southern part of Guangzhou metropolitan area. The indigenous inhabitants were peasant and fishermen. The provincial government expropriated their land and demolished their homes. A big conflict over demolition and compensation was caused a few years ago. Now there are only four villages left. You still can see some traces of people struggle there, including the banners, posters and their ancestral halls.
The government boasted of its planning idea of "learning community" which integrates all universities together and enables them to share public facilities. But it turns out that it's more like an industrial district of higher education than a community. The city is separated by circular roads and universities occupied their own turf without much connections with others. The scale of this city is so big that walking between different institutions is not quite feasible and sometimes bicycle does not work very well. The transportation within the campus is also not enough.