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Kunming, Yunnan Province:   China’s Gateway to Southeast Asia

China receives a lot of well-deserved recognition for its expanding high-speed passenger rail system. Now China’s rail ambitions are extending well beyond its borders into neighboring countries. This April, construction is to begin on a rail line linking southern Yunnan province with the country of Laos to the south.

With cash in hand and the ability to build such a rail line, China is paying for the majority of the construction cost while Laos will only be responsible for 30% of the cost. This is yet another example of China exercising its policy of ‘infrastructure diplomacy’- that is, helping other developing nations pay for and build new infrastructure to promote favorable relations and gain access to natural resources. View full post »

Like the rest of China, Macau is witnessing an ascent in its housing prices. According to Bloomberg, “Macau home prices may rise as much as 20 percent this year as the city’s economy benefits from an expanding casino industry.”

Even though Macau has seen the construction of some high-profile new Casino/Hotels in recent years, the small Special Administrative Region and former Portuguese colony is saddled with an out-of-date housing stock. Yet with rising local incomes due to the booming casino industry and the immigration of workers from Mainland China and neighboring Asian countries, Macau needs to build more new housing units to keep pace with demand.

If demand is not met, housing prices risk skyrocketing to levels that would be unaffordable for local Macanese and immigrant hospitality workers.

Bloomberg: Macau Home Prices May Gain Up to 20% This Year on Casino Growth

Beijing Suburbs. Photo by Manuel.A.69.

As China’s expanding cities inevitably swallow up surrounding countryside, the boundaries between urban, rural and suburban areas become progressively more blurred. What today might be farmland could tomorrow be the next central business district sprouting state-of-the-art skyscrapers. This fast-changing reality makes defining what constitutes urban vs suburban with developed-world standards insufficient. China needs its own definitions. View full post »

A frequently revisited topic in discussions about China’s development is the widespread loss of historic structures and neighborhoods throughout the country’s fast-changing metropolises. From the Western historical preservation perspective, much of what has taken place over the course of China’s three-decade long modernization is nothing short of an epic tragedy. No other narrative exemplifies this lament more than the destruction of the hutong neighborhoods in central Beijing.

Last July, the New York Times ran a story about this very topic, aptly titled ‘Bulldozers Meet Historic Chinese Neighborhood’. The neighborhood in question is Gulou (meaning ‘drum tower’, which is the neighborhood’s landmark, along with the adjacent Zhonglou, or ‘bell tower’). Located in central Beijing, just north of the Forbidden City, Gulou is one of the last remaining areas comprising hutongs (narrow alleys) lined by the accompanying siheyuan (traditional courtyard homes). View full post »

Dongguan Housing. Photo by livinginchina4now.

Several people have called my attention to a recent article from The Telegraph about China ‘creating the largest mega-city in the world with 42 million people‘. The title of the piece is a bit misleading as the government is not planning a new city per se, but rather combining a group of nearby cities into one huge ‘mega-city’. The targeted group of cities make up the Pearl River Delta region in China’s southern Guangdong Province.

Home to China’s famous first tier cities Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the Pearl River Delta is already one of the most populated places on earth. It is the manufacturing powerhouse of the country, thanks in large part to it being the first economically liberalized region after Reform and Opening Up. As a result of this, the Pearl River Delta has absorbed ambitious migrants from all over China for  the better part of three decades. View full post »