Development and Urbanization
This presentation undertakes a relational analysis which privileges the circumstances of local context in the lower Yangzi delta to better theorize complex and sometimes contradictory patterns and processes across diffuse urban regions in China. By engaging with landscape architecture and urban design perspectives this study explores alternative conceptualizations of local state-led spatial planning policies and practices which challenge the old dualism of urban and rural. Previously peripheral agricultural areas are characterized as new hybrid spaces, including increasingly commercialised food production systems, and the development of tourism and leisure activities where a re-imagined eco-rurality is constructed, promoted and consumed. The presentation highlights the relationship between significant restructuring in agriculture and new policies and patterns around China’s “cultural economy” which have been enthusiastically embraced in local heritage and “ecological” development practices. Through a detailed case study of master planning and local development initiatives in a suburban subdistrict in Wuxi, the wider discourse and objectives of “ecological civilization” in China, how eco-ideology has been mobilized in crafting and implementing the eco-imaginary at the local level, and the deliberate reconfiguration and re-landscaping of the countryside are examined. The presentation concludes by probing the possibilities of alternative methodological and theoretical tools to analyze ecological models for landscape design and regional planning which are sensitive to the emergence of new hybrid patterns of activity systems, and for reconceptualizing well managed rapidly transforming diffuse cities and urban territories in China as sustainable.