Waterfront urban regeneration in post-industrial Shanghai: publicness and policy suggestions for making more inclusive public spaces

This submission has open access
Submission Summary
Since the oil crisis in the early 1990s, redeveloping industrial areas in the city centre -especially waterfront areas which were often used as heavy industrial sites because of their convenience for transporting materials and resources by waterway- has gradually become a global urban development trend. The primary goal of redeveloping waterfront industrial sites, as many policy-makers have claimed, is to open up the closed industrial areas to the general public, transforming waterfront areas from production spaces to open public spaces. However, because of the rise of neoliberalism since the 1980s, many of those urban redevelopment projects are fueled by private investments and therefore property-led. The involvement of and reliance on private investments, as many scholars have pointed out, lead to gentrification and privatisation of the redeveloped areas. As a result, in recent decades, we have seen in Cardiff, Sydney, Baltimore and many other cities all around the world that growing numbers of waterfront industrial areas have been transformed to places such as luxury waterfront apartment, fine restaurants, high-end shopping centres and cassinos. Some scholars arise their doubts about the publicness of public spaces in those areas, arguing that they only serve for customers and investors rather than the general public. And therefore, the waterfront urban regeneration areas are often pseudo-public spaces. Meanwhile, current research mainly focuses on Western cities, but tends to neglect cities in the global south. However, China is a country that desires more analysis. The transformation of waterfront industrial areas in Chinese cities is massive. In Mao Zedong’s regime (from 1949 to 1978), based on the communist ideology, Chinese cities served as ‘industrial production centres’. In Maoist China, therefore, urban growth was driven by industrialisation and the urban space was organised based on the forms of pro¬duction introduced by the Soviet-influenced Socialist state, while urban func¬tions in commerce, finance and services were suppressed. As a result, in Mao’s era, waterfront areas in Chinese cities, thanks to their advantages in waterway transportation, were full of industrial factories and storehouses which were not open to the general public. Since 1979, China adopted a market-oriented economic reform which turns Chinese cities from industrial production centres to consumption ones. And Shanghai was planned to be the multifunctional economic centre of China in the reform era. The economic reform, as a result, leads to a large number of urban lands in Shanghai’s city centre, especially the waterfront areas, which were used for non-commercial purposes in the pre-reform era being gradually redeveloped in recent decades. China’s economic reform, in David Harvey’s words, is ‘neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics’. Private investors, as a result, are encouraged to participate and invest in the redevelopment of industrial areas. For this reason, how does the involvement of private investments affect the publicness of urban spaces in the redeveloped waterfront industrial areas? To what extent the waterfront industrial sites are public after redevelopment? Can they provide genuine public spaces that can contribute to improving the inclusiveness of the city? No empirical studies have been carried out to answer those questions. This paper tries to explore answers to those questions based on three case studies in Shanghai. Drawing on a broad review of empirical approaches for assessing the publicness of urban spaces established in the existing literature, the paper adopts a property rights approach to quantitatively assess the degrees of publicness of the selected cases. Building upon the results of the empirical assessments in Shanghai, the paper proposes suggestions for policy-making that hopefully can help improving the publicness and inclusiveness of redeveloped industrial areas in cities in the global south.
Submission ID :
Submission Type
Submission Track
6: Creating Healthy and Inclusive Urban Environment
Full paper :
If the file does not load, click here to open/download the file.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
School of architecture and urban planning, Tongji University
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Tongji University
141 hits