Book Review: Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century

(This book review was written by Michael Cynkar, current master of Urban and Regional Planning student at Portland State University. )

Orville Schell and John Delury’s book Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century, illustrates the history of modern China through an exploration of 11 of the most prominent Chinese social and political figures of the last 200 years. The authors examine their role in Chinese history through their written works, political activity, and their personal lives and beliefs to draw broad conclusions about their legacies in government and Chinese history. While many of these thinkers articulate very different solutions to the problems of modern Chinese society, there are many common themes that each of them share. These major links between these 11 critical historical figures will be examined in subsequent sections.

Background to the issues of modern China:
Before delving into the themes that tie together each of these individuals, it is important to know the historical context within which they were living. Throughout the 19th century China was on the losing end of several wars with foreign powers, most notably the First and Second Opium Wars with Great Britain and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. Long used to being the “Central Kingdom” and considering itself the most dominant country in the world, these defeats marked a distinct fall from glory for China and had major ramifications on the psyche of the Chinese people and the path forward from this humiliation. Some saw the need to learn the ways of the West in order to improve China’s global position (the “self-strengtheners”) while others saw this as a threat to China’s sovereignty and tradition. Still others believed that radical reform was needed, and not only should China learn from the West, but it should also abolish all the traditions of Confucian culture that were holding it back from the rest of the modern world. The debate between these disparate groups framed many key events in the history of modern China and the modern world.

THEMES
One of the very interesting elements about this book was the way that the author seamlessly wove the ideas and teachings of one historical figure to the next. History during this time period and with these particular individuals appeared to occur in a very linear fashion, with one individual’s beliefs strongly influencing the subsequent generations of leaders. Furthermore, in many situations the individuals featured in this book had personal encounters with one another or were a protégé that carried the former leader’s ideas to the next generation. Because of these personal connections there were many themes which ran constant through the experiences of each of these individuals.

Not ready for western democracy:
Perhaps the most common sentiment among this select group was that China and its people were not ready for the style of democracy practiced in the West. The reasons for this varied from person to person. Early reformers such as Wei Yuan and Feng Guifen were less interested in Western democracy, primarily due to the coinciding imperialist invasions by Western nations. They were interested in learning from the West, but primarily as a means of “self-strengthening” in which they gleaned from the military knowledge of the West to advance traditional Chinese values with Confucian characteristics. The Empress Cixi was similarly interested in self-strengthening at times, but also supported traditionalists if it was necessary for her to maintain the reins of power in the imperial court.

Probably the most interesting perspective on China’s incompatibility with Western-style democracy is Liang Qichao. A prominent journalist who wrote for the New Citizen Journal, Liang held many democratic values relating to personal liberties and was a prominent figure in the New Culture Movement, which emphasized values of democracy and equality over traditional Chinese, Confucian values. As a prominent figure in modern China, Liang traveled the world and took a very influential visit to Europe following World War One, which permanently altered his views on western democracy. In the wake of the destruction from the war, he no longer idealized the West, seeing the failed governments, ruin, and the large barriers between rich and poor. Whereas he had previously admired these societies because of the democratic ideals they represented, Liang distanced himself from western democracy while supporting values such as freedom of speech as worthy goals in and of themselves (p. 113).

Sun Yat-Sen was another reformer who laid out his vision in his Three People’s Principles: nationalism, individual rights of the people, and the livelihood of the people. Similar to other reformers, he held the conviction that democracy in China would have to be a process that was phased in over time. Nevertheless, his Three Principles served as the foundation for the hope and potential that China may someday realize a democratic future (p. 142).

The reasons behind each of these individuals’ belief that China was not ready for democracy varied quite significantly, as we have seen. For some of them, they were resentful of the West for invading China and did not value the culture outside of its military, for some like the Empress Cixi or Deng Xiaoping, they saw the need for some reform, but true democracy threatened the stability of their power, and for Liang Qichao the devastation of World War One proved that the West was not invincible or flawless and that its style of government was vulnerable to imperial forces just like China.

Wealth and power or traditionalism? Destruction or protection?
The debate over a wealth and power approach or a traditional approach has well-established roots in Chinese society. During the Warring States period the Confucians and the Legalists had similarly varying philosophies, in which the Legalists proposed a strong state which contrasted with the more humanistic doctrine of Confucianism.

As the title would suggest, wealth and power are characteristics that tie together all of these thinkers. In the wake of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, many of the early leaders believed that China must be a wealthy and prosperous country in order to be powerful enough to maintain its state sovereignty and therefore protect its culture. This was somewhat of a catch-22, in that the only way to keep from losing their old culture and being overtaken by foreign powers was to evolve their country and culture through the adoption of foreign military technology and tactics so that they could protect themselves from the outside world. It is important to note that the self-strengtheners advocating for such an approach believed in traditional Chinese values of Confucianism, but saw the need for wealth and power to protect these ideals. This conflicted with more traditional, hardline Confucians who believed that any adoption of ideals or knowledge from the “barbarian invaders” was a threat to Chinese culture.

From this same debate over which approach was better for improving modern China’s plight in the world rose a debate over what actions were needed in order to advance the nation as a whole. The traditionalists argued for protection and conservation of traditional Chinese culture, centered on Confucian values. They believed that China’s history was long and great and that only through strict adherence to such values could the country return to greatness. Many of the new reformers believed that just the opposite was needed. China did not need to strengthen its traditional past; they believed that these very traditions and arcane ways of structuring government, education and society were what was holding China back from being a great nation.

Liang Qichao and Chen Duxiu were central to this philosophy of reform, with both men playing major roles in the inspiration behind the New Culture Movement. Chen was an especially ardent supporter of destroying traditional values, speaking of them as a “garbage can” on the backs of himself and other Chinese (p. 169). and this ultimately culminated in an unfortunate way through the “creative destruction” of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, in which traditional Chinese elements within society were destroyed in favor of Maoist revolutionary and Marxist principles.

The inherent debate underlying these years of whether to pursue wealth and power and borrow certain ideas from the West, or whether to become more isolationist and insular in an attempt to restore China’s cultural superiority played a major role in each of these historical figures’ lives and legacies. So did the similar debate over whether to attempt to bring back China’s power through destruction of traditional Chinese societal values or protection.

CONCLUSION
China’s unreadiness for western democracy in the eyes of these important historical figures is interesting in the context of the wealth and power self-strengthening movement versus the traditional values approach of the Confucians. It suggests that while many western reforms were made throughout the years, such as adopting western military methods through self-strengthening in the early years or opening up China’s doors to trade with the West in the latter part of the 20th Century, there was always something keeping China from fully embracing this western culture.

The reasons for this are likely numerous, but the book does an excellent job of illustrating one especially strong explanation. The central hypothesis can be seen in the statement of Yan Fu, who argues that “the greatest difference between China and the West, which can never be made up, is that the Chinese are fond of antiquity, but neglect the present whereas Westerners are struggling in the present in order to supersede the past” (p. 89). This continual conflict between China’s long history of greatness and the need to modernize certain elements to keep pace with the modern world illustrates the controversy of adopting any type of reform, even if it promotes China’s strength. The prospect of adopting significant reforms to individual freedoms and rights of the people to vote are therefore that much more controversial.

I believe that part of this explanation is likely due to the fact that there are many inherent differences between western-style democracy and the traditional Chinese system. This was perhaps one reason that of the two dominant ideologies of the 20th century, communism came to dominate and become most salient in China. On the other hand, I wonder to what extent the negative images of the Western nations as barbarians invading China led to the inability for China to implement a western-style democracy. As Sun Yat-Sen’s United Front illustrated, China’s partnership with and favorable views of the Soviet Union was due in large part to the Soviet Union’s relative appeal to the West. At a time when the West had recently granted Japan the control of former German colonial outposts within China, the Soviet Union was absolving China of its war debt. Furthermore, the memories of the Opium Wars and the Sino-Japanese war were still fresh memories. While the Western countries won those battles, it seems like the negative reactions to this imperialism within China may have lost the war in terms of China implementing a western-style democratic government.

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Book Review: China in Ten Words, and A Review in Several More

(This book review was written by Hannah Silver, current master of Urban and Regional Planning student at Portland State University. )

http://books.google.com/books/content?id=PBjH1tOo-6gC&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&imgtk=AFLRE71sNXE4k4j2Uulll41qETMdtMi47pOa9rpDXlnx7C-u7O6R6TC6Cure_EQwph6bV4guoRC-vAyWOWgvMXonm0PNfhU1nqXa440tbWPGlJOTYB6pb4LK1R0d6BOBbAg_rqLAIWlD

“China’s pain is mine,” states Yu Hua as an introduction to his 2011 account of his country’s
incredible and complicated half­century metamorphosis, China in Ten Words. Though limited
to a finite lexicon, China in Ten Words conveys perfectly the impressive and often chaotic
history of the Communist Party of China and its resilient people with a calm and resolute
voice. Using simple descriptions of personal experiences and recountals of famous (and
infamous) events occurring in the author’s lifetime, these stories weave together to illustrate
overarching themes of China’s development. Each chapter focuses upon one of ten decisive
words, seamlessly building upon the prior while leading the reader on a journey through
China’s successes and strife.

In the chapter “People,” Yu Hua begins with a story that conveys the power of the masses. A
country that holds more than 1/6th of the entire world’s population certainly houses masses.
With his poetic, simplistic prose, Yu Hua somehow lets the reader feel China’s heartbeat
through the pages and from across the globe, establishing a kinship to a people that one may
or may not have had any experience with or affinity to otherwise.

Upon this foundation, the chapter “Leader” explores the celebrity of the revered Chairman
Mao, expressing the people’s’ desperation for something and someone to believe in. Even
now, “gripped by the zeitgeist, people of diverse backgrounds and disparate opinions find a
common channel for their discontent” by venerating the deceased Mao. For an outsider, this
chapter is essential for establishing an understanding of the people’s investment in their faith
in one leader and party.

“Reading” takes a look at both the economic market and dissemination of information through his incredible history of access to literature. Contrasting his childhood, when novels were contraband, to the day that vouchers became available to only fifty citizens in his village to purchase books, to the overwhelming access to pirated copies of even his own writing at kiosks along the sidewalk, Yu Hua exhibits just one of China’s rapid changes.

In “Writing,” Yu Hua recounts his incredible discipline in training himself to be a writer after
years of pulling teeth for a living. While describing the background of why his earlier writing is undeniably bloody, Yu Hua unveils a China full of violence at the peak of both militancy and his own childhood. Watching executions of “counterrevolutionaries” on the beach with other children is a memory not easily shaken. Though a significant portion of China’s current
population has no recollection of country so violent, the author’s generation is irrevocably
shaped by such experiences.

In Mao’s world without literature, but one prose author existed, who is the subject of Yu Hua’s next chapter: “Lu Xun.” Such constraint meant that a famished reader such as young Yu Hua could barely appreciate Lu Xun’s writing. Only far later, with many more options at his
fingertips, could the author come to realize the goodness of Lu Xun’s writing. Scarcity breeds
desire, and in this case, desire for anything else. China’s incredible scarcity of everything
during the Communist Party’s early years has certainly led to an incredible proliferation of
options in its more comfortable times. Even when applied to something like the built
environment, one can see China’s desperation for anything but the old: rather than preserving historic places, China seeks new, exciting high­rises and unique architecture­­anything but what the one old choice used to be.

“Revolution” gives an astute overview of the Great Leap Forward and compares it to China’s
current unbelievable boom of development. Yu Hua likens the violence of his childhood to the current forced eviction and razing of homes in the name of official business and urbanization. He also recounts some of the most tragic vignettes of the Cultural Revolution: witnessing his classmate’s father become the target of attack and humiliation for an indefensible reason and seeing him just moments before he took his own life rather than allow for his family to live on with his shame. That, and many other appalling tales of violence and woe, paint the picture of a China revered yet awkward in its newfound power.

The chapter “Disparity” tackles the subject of China’s unfettered rise to the top, which has left
many of its own people in the dust. Yu Hua looks into the costs of China’s growth, which are
unfortunately shouldered by either the least empowered or the unrepresented, namely, the
environment. He says:

  • Just look at China today: the urban high­rises shooting up like forests under a gray
    and murky sky; the thick mesh of expressways, far outnumbering our rivers; the
    dazzling array of merchandise in shopping centers and supermarkets; the endless
    lines of traffic and pedestrians in the streets; the constant glitter of advertisements and
    neon signs; the nightclubs and massage parlors, beauty salons and foot­washing
    joints, lining every blocks; not to mention the luxury restaurants three or four floors
    high, each floor the size of an auditorium, rimmed on all sides by sumptuous private
    rooms, two or three thousand people all wining and dining, shiny­faced with
    satisfaction.
    But just thirty years ago, before we took that leap, we saw no high­rises, apart from
    one or two in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai; we had no concept of expressways
    or advertisements; we had very few stores, and very little to buy in the stores we did
    have. We seemed to have nothing then, though we did have a blue sky.

With a country to set on growth and catching up to the rest of the developed world, casualties are inevitable. The chapter “Grassroots” follows up on the “disadvantaged classes that operate at some remove from the mainstream and the orthodox.” The people who rise to the top from these disadvantaged circumstances do so through completely unconventional means, becoming rich through novel schemes, and often reaching a tipping point whereupon they lose everything. In China, the “Rich List is popularly known as the Pigs­for­Slaughter List,” as few can remain in their prime for long. Competition it too powerful. But at the core, the grassroots do give the author hope: they have the opportunity to press for a redistribution of both political and economic power, even if their attempts are currently fraught with challenges.

Yu Hua’s next chapter, “Copycat,” vividly describes China’s culture of forfeited and hijacked
off­brand copies of everything from cellphones to celebrities. This “borrowing” extends even to China’s approach to development, namely the building of cities that replicate Manhattan or London. Can China develop its own self with so much interference from outside sources?

“Bamboozle,” the book’s culminating chapter, follows the thread of the preceding segment.
China has become far too successful at its trickery, allowing for people to con the
government, and the government to con the people. Yu Hua expresses his concern that when
one attempts to bamboozle another, one often ends up deceiving themselves, often to bad
results. He notes that it is often “a case of reaping what one sows.” The reader is left
wondering whether China has sowed the right seeds in order to grow an ideal product: a
future China that is capable of finding a balance between development, social equity, and
respect for the environment.

Yu Hua makes the point that “when society undergoes a drastic shift, an extremely repressed
era soon becomes a very lax one [. . . and] it’s like being on a swing: the higher you soar on
one side, the higher you rise on the other.” This theme is evident throughout each chapter,
and it begs the question: if China is simply on one side of the swing, is it doomed to fall into its other extreme if it cannot progress in a conscientious and moderate manner? Is such
dramatic development sustainable? Can the environment withstand much more pollution? Is
China’s plan to succeed really a plan to fail?

Yu Hua uses ten words to shape his multivarious anecdotes into concrete illustrations of
particular aspects of China’s improbably rapid shift from one mode of existence to another.
Ultimately, the reader sees that the essential message is that, like Yu Hua’s anecdotes, China
cannot be taken simply at face­value. It is too powerful and unpredictable. It is almost
impossible to anticipate what the next five, ten, or fifty years will look like for China. All we can know is its past, and hope that that people in power have learned from it.

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Urban Growth Boundary for Chinese cities?

In the past year, planning field in China has been busy discussing how to control urban growth. One question stands out for investigation is, shall we set up the urban growth boundary for each city? What follows, is their interests in Portland, one of a few cities in US that has a UGB and well managed for 40+ years.  Several cities in China have shown interests in learning from Portland UGB experiences.

Lloyd Meyer, whose family living in a piece of land farming for many generations, had a different perspective when their land recently been converted to Urban Reserves. Here is what he thinks when a city increase the boundary to promote growth:


Image Source: Cornell University Masters Thesis, May 2012 – Beyond Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary: Towards an Integrated Landscape Network of Urban & Rural Land Use (URL: http://cargocollective.com/benhedstrom/Beyond-Portland-s-Urban-Growth-Boundary) 

…the population within what is known as The Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) in the Portland Oregon area is approximately 1.5 million people.  This region too has experienced exponential growth during the last 40 years, in large part due to the arrival of large high tech firms such as Intel and Tektronics.  The original intent of Metro’s land use planning was to establish zones where industrial development may be located and where agricultural lands could be protected and enhanced.  Looking back over the last forty years, such planning has led to remarkable economic growth, especially in the areas of high tech.

Beginning in 1979, Metro established the concept of the Urban Growth Boundary.  Within this boundary is where development, i.e. residential (which includes both single family and multifamily housing), commercial or industrial, is to occur.

Lands within the Urban Growth Boundary are already designated for development and such development is governed by the laws and regulations of the local jurisdictions located within the UGB.

Outside the UGB but still within the Tri County Area and under the planning purview of Metro, land has been designated for either future development (Urban Reserves) under certain conditions or set aside for 50 years (Rural Reserves) before any development can take place.

It is within the areas of Urban Reserves where the issues of what type of growth and development should occur and at what pace.  Metro does not pre determine the growth but rather does its best to forecast such growth so that governmental agencies in turn can work provide services in anticipation for such growth.  Designating lands for Urban Reserves has been done in an open and transparent process but has not been free from controversy.

Lands, once designated as Urban Reserves, are not automatically subject to immediate development.  Certain issues need to considered and addressed prior to development occurring within these Urban Reserves.  Such existential issues include determining the societal value of preserving land for agricultural use versus providing additional lands for homes and businesses to meet the need of a growing population.  Built in to the whole planning philosophy of Oregon’s Land Use Planning Laws is the concept that the general public has a say into how these land use and development decisions are made, since such decisions directly affect them and their future and children’s future. Individual property owners still maintain certain rights to use their land as they choose.   However, the inexorable pressure of market forces may lead to development of lands that are best maintained as rural in character.

Care too should be taken to understand the global implications to local land use planning decisions.  As farmland is converted to residences and apartments, the effect that has on a region’s food supply should be considered.   Similarly, if manufacturing/industrial zones are kept out of the region because of concern about their deleterious environmental impacts, the long-term implications of where such products are ultimately produced should be considered.  For example, the environmental impacts of such decisions may be simply transferred to other countries.

As well, High Tech growth, with its concomitant elevation of the region’s standard of living, does not necessarily guarantee the agricultural self-sufficiency of the region or the planet’s overall environmental wellbeing.  Extra care and a deliberate preference need to be given to insure that a system and culture of agriculture is to be maintained so that it can flourish in the midst of expanding populations as well as within a thriving industrial region that is supporting jobs and the region’s tax base.  As the people of the Metro area strive to rationally plan for its economic and environmental future, market forces should be tamed so as to insure that generations to come have access to a well rounded economy, one that is compatible to agriculture, industry and environmental livability alike.

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Chinese Dumplings and Global Warming

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/magazine/what-do-chinese-dumplings-have-to-do-with-global-warming.html?_r=1

This has been a fascinating article in recent months. In my mind, it was really hard to make connections between dumplings and global warming. However, after reading the article, I was reflecting that me myself sometimes make dumplings and freeze them in the freezer, for the convenience that next time we can just take out and boil them and eat. I confess that there are still several small bags of dumplings in my frig, possibly tracing back to one year ago. They most likely will end in my trash can, since they really taste bad… right, I do not have the industrial standard refrigerator which can freeze them fast… Lesson: I should not try to freeze myself any more, which is totally a waste of energy.

The great reminder to everyone, that with the refrigerating chain, food simply changed its rotting location from the production site to consumer homes. Undeniable!!!

Like what we used to ask, what if Chinese people all owns automobiles like the Americans, this is again a great question: what if Chinese build up a sophisticated refrigerating chain like the US? Certainly it will contribute greatly to global warming… Then thinking back that average Chinese people suffer twice a week some kind of stomach problem due to food not kept fresh, is there any way out on this health problem?

I was surprised by the size of refrigerators when I first came to US more than 10 years ago, you easily stuff in with 1-2 weeks’ food stock.  I was further encouraged to stuff it more when I was told that refrigerators are more electric efficient if it is fully packed. Four years’ experience living in the Netherlands taught me that life with a frig less than one fourth of the American size and without a separate freezer was also possible. Indeed, you have to shop more often, but you do throw away a lot less.

For Chinese who are so obsessed with food, freshness and health, I hope the choice of building a refrigerate chain could be smarter.

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War on Pollution is hurting GDP

Some have estimated that China’s economic growth might be close to zero if considering the amount of damage it has done on the environment. In another word, these GDP numbers are mostly illusions about economic development. Earlier in this blog, we have also mentioned that Hebei province government have had requested for Beijing’s extra funding, because their industries were required to shut down because of the pollution in the air that circles around Beijing. 

After Premier Li Keqiang declared “war on pollution” at the National People’s Congress in March amid mounting public concern. At Quartz, Gwynn Guilford explains that the Chinese government’s efforts to mitigate air pollution have partially backfired, slowing down the economy as a result:

…, recent analysis of economic data by Wei Yao, an economist at Société Générale, found that “Chinese policymakers are getting serious about air pollution.” So serious, in fact, that those efforts are already hurting GDP performance—something the government has so far shown to be its biggest priority. Yao says GDP will slow 0.35 percentage points cumulatively from 2014 to 2017 because of air pollution mitigation efforts, and she expects the economy to take the biggest blow this year.

The biggest indicator comes from China’s industrial output—the output of China’s manufacturing, mining and materials sectors—where growth has slowed significantly since September, when China’s cabinet rolled out its air pollution action plan. Last August that indicator hit a 16-month high of 10.4% growth versus the same month in 2012, but industrial production expanded only 8.7% last month. That’s the slowest since March 2009, just after the financial crisis hit:

That slowing of output comes disproportionately from high-polluting northern provinces, which accounted for three-quarters of the 1.7-percentage-point slowdown in national industrial production since September. “Our comparison of all regional data shows that the more polluted the region, the greater the slowdown,” writes Yao. [Source]

 

 

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Poverty, Inequality and Stability

By Yiping Fang

A recent new item at Bloomberg states, that,  The income gap between rich and poor in China has now surpassed that of the United States.

A common measure of income inequality almost doubled in China between 1980 and 2010 and now points to a “severe” disparity, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. The finding conforms to what many Chinese people already say they believe — in a 2012 survey, they ranked inequality as the nation’s top social challenge, above corruption and unemployment, the report showed.

In US, Poverty or Inequality has increasingly getting to the center of political debate in recent years. In a recent blog post by Professor Peter Marcuse at Columbia University, he said,

The language in the slogans used to address what most see as the basic social problem in the United States varies significantly. The key terms run from “war on poverty” to “ladders of opportunity” to “upward mobility” to “fight against inequality.” President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York in his inaugural address as Mayor of New York City called on the City “ to put an end to economic and social inequalities,”  President Obama before his second inaugural wanted to make inequality the “defining issue” of his second term,  but that language changed to creating “ladders of opportunity” in his State of the Union address.

On the contrary, when we know that China’s income gap is surpassing that of the US, how come there is not much in discussion other than the ‘urbanization policy’?  The recent policy made a new focus on ‘human centered’ development, which shows that the central government is aware of the amount of social problems that the fast economic development can bring. Although there are ideology and political system differences that pushed China adopted a totally different mechanism to deal with what the outcome of increasing inequality – the instability: through higher control. The origin of a stable society is its satisfied residents. How to make poor people happier, different countries adopted different strategies.

The social democratic welfare state in western European countries, think poverty is just someone’s bad luck. Therefore, they deserve to be helped by others. The tax system redistribute money from the rich to the poor.  In US, the Obama government attempts to create a better safety net including the universal health care plans, however, since Americans mostly think the poor is poor because they are lazy, the implementation of his policies have been not really easy.  In China, the one party government chose to stop the complains from the disadvantaged group. The fast economic development has prompted the government to spend a huge budget on keeping the stability of the society through surveillance and censorship. Why not use this money to create social safety net?  If someday we can see that the government spending on domestic control is dropping and on social security is increasing, we know that China is on the right path trying to solve the inequality challenge.

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Making designs look real?

Recently we had the PLACE landscape design studio coming to talk in the China seminar. In their presentation, One of PLACE Principle, Charles mentioned about their design procedures, which usually just have quick turn-around by sending the client some pictures of existing landscape, and continue for detailed design when the concept part is approved. This seems to be a rather simple way of communicating landscape design, which may not be possible for architecture design.

Responding to my question on whether he sees differences among US and China on the effort on perspectives, models, or digital 3D animation for design work, Charles acknowledged that in US this component was not automatically included. He would have to make it clear to his client that how much extra it would cost. It is the clients’ decision to pay for it or not. In China, the presentation of the design seems to be the most important part which are required in all kinds of meetings through the whole processes of the design. The assumption is that the decision makers are not professionals, and they make the project decision mainly on how it would look like in the future.

This bias on design presentation really has been really long. In my college days, several classmates who could draw well very soon received so many ‘Si Huo’ (private projects) that they were able to live ‘luxurious life’ very early. The visualization company, shuijingshi, started in early 1990s by several seniors. I also remember working with several colleagues in the small dormitory and produced five perspectives using the color spraying gun, and made a fortune of 5,000 yuan in a week! That was still the before digital time.

What goes beyond architecture design, is the need to visualize urban development at a city level. The local government officials want to show off their development achievement. I think most people know that there is a planning museum in every city in China. They started with large scale models of the whole city, and some in a way that you can walk on top of the models of the city buildings. The following is the model in Beijing Planning museum, from here.

With the development of digital media, one of my classmates has successfully started a digital GIS modeling company, Weijinghang, currently with 300 employees. The museums sometimes are not quick enough to adapt to the fast changes in Chinese cities. What he made it possible is to have a room with several projectors, it can display the city’s digital model in front of you. You can even zoom to the areas that you are most interested in and look into details.

媲美世博会沙特馆 全球最大数字沙盘诞生

This friend of mine asked me whether I can help to market his product in US. My first response was that definitely it is not possible in the US urban planning field. City government here would not be possible to spend tax dollars on displaying the urban development. Recently I heard that they won a project working with Singapore urban development authority.

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