Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

China's Mega Projects


Xu Tan

An Isolated Island with Thriving Plants and Flowers

People all over the world today realize that a place with a poor ecological environment cannot be considered a pleasant place to live, even if it has high monetary incomes. Despite such a mentality, ecological conditions continue to decay.

Some urban administrative departments in the Pearl River Delta region have realized that, besides considering GDP, they first have to heal the damage caused by the urban development of the past decades. They should also restore ecological diversity and, in addition to urban landscaping, revive and preserve the declining numbers of species of flora and fauna. Since 2005, Shenzhen has set aside nearly half of its metropolitan area (900 square kilometers) as an ecological reserve. In addition to banning logging and allowing plants to recuperate and grow, many human and financial resources have been spent on planning and construction in order to catch up with the most environmentally friendly cities in the world. A decade later, by 2015, the number of plant species found in urban construction zones in Shenzhen had exceeded 1,700, surpassing Tokyo, Singapore, and Los Angeles (1,300 species), and even equaling London—a city regarded as the world’s top urban environment. Shenzhen’s Xianhu Botanical Garden now houses more than 10,000 species, although it has not yet reached the number of species of the Royal Botanical Gardens in London.

While many Shenzhen experts and scholars enjoy the fresh air in a pleasant environment, they also realize that the overall population is highly qualified. I ask them what they think should be done if the ecological conditions in the vast areas outside of Shenzhen continue to deteriorate. They tell me they would feel discouraged and anxious. I sense the efforts of these experts and builders. Even if it is as if they have constructed an isolated island with thriving plants and flowers, their actions are still commendable.

(Translated by Fiona He)

About Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

The "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" is a new construction envisioned from a top-down perspective and territorial integration. It is a blueprint for a future urban development based on efficiency, speed, and mobility. What if we conceive the Greater Bay Area as an experiment, an imaginary experiment? On the one hand, there is the question of 'diversity'. When we talk about smart cities, artificial intelligence, automation, ecological crisis, information security, the future of virtual reality, global trade, etc., where does this view of the future come from, and what determines it? On the other hand, a profound political, spatial, historical, and geographical significance is present in the Greater Bay Area. Is it possible to develop a different imagination based on the history and culture of the "Pearl River Delta-Greater Bay Area;" meaning, to consider a development departing from local knowledge production, negotiating with accelerating technologies, facilitating collaborations between art and other disciplines, and reshaping the vision of institutions of art and technology? By exploring the diversity of technologies, human and non-human ecologies, and reproduction of social relations, might it be possible to reposition the "Greater Bay Area" as a pioneering experiment of southern China's technological and cultural imagination beyond a mere economic zone?

Editors: Jianru Wu, Guo Yun
English editor: Christy Lange