This publication concerns large-scale urban area development in general, and in particular with gaining an understanding of the role played by global-local interaction in shaping the area development strategies in one particularly explosive urban project, the development of Shanghai’s Pudong New Area. The Pudong development provides an extreme example of a situation in which interaction between global and local forces took place in a location whose boundaries had been closed to the outside world for almost forty years and in a period when doors and windows were beginning to open. The research led to a concrete interpretation of the tensions developing at district level and provided an example capable of representing the complexity and dynamics of current area developments. The practical question addressed by the research was: What were the main factors responsible for the speed achieved by the Pudong development? The associated theoretical question was To what extent did the development of the Pudong New Area reflect the characteristics of a developmental state?
In the present age of globalisation most cities are under heavy pressure to undertake drastic urban transformation to enhance their competitiveness. The emergence of large urban development and redevelopment projects, so-called urban mega projects, is presented as a strategic choice. These projects have a significant impact, social, economic and political, on the area and the city involved. They do however face urban mangers with a complex situation. In most cases, not only are both the public sector and the private sector involved in the development process, but global players also play a significant role. The flow of finance and the transfer of know-how across city and national borders has a major influence on the way such projects are managed and the degree of success eventually achieved. A combination of complexity and uncertainty can make any such development a lengthy business.
Shanghai's Pudong New Area development is one such urban mega project, but one that is being developed at a speed that few comparable projects have ever achieved. The annual construction area of Pudong was equal to total annual construction area for the whole of Spain. It was not only the physical transformation of Pudong in little more than a decade that has fascinated outsiders, its economic growth and social change are equally impressive. How could the project be carried out at such a speed? What policies and management strategies did local government adopt to deal with such complexity and uncertainty? While some credit the strong hand of an authoritarian state, there is little academic support for such a view. For example, it is difficult to explain why market participants, particularly multinationals, flocked to Pudong and poured in billions of dollars in spite of all the risks associated with such activities. It is also hard to believe that state compulsion could have been sufficient by itself to achieve the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of households. The present research was prompted by a practical question, namely how could the Shanghai Pudong New Area development be implemented so rapidly? As the research proceeded, a further more theoretical question arose, concerning the extent to which the way the Pudong New Area development was carried out reflected the characteristics of a developmental state.
The study aimed to provide a better understanding of how this urban mega project was carried out in Shanghai within a context of globalization, how global and local influences affected a local urban development process, and how it was possible for public-private partnerships to become involved. The research examined the initiatives and decision-making processes involved in the Pudong development and carried out a detailed analysis of the factors that contributed to its speed. Those factors included the different strategies adopted by local government and the ways in which investment and finance were mobilised, the development process was facilitated and different participants became involved. The study suggested that in this development the guidance provided by local government and the collaboration between the public sector and the private sector reflected some of the main features of the developmental state.
It is hoped that the experience gained and lessons learned from this project will serve as an inspiration for similar large-scale urban development projects in other countries, developed and developing.
This research was qualitative, based on a single case study. The study is multi-disciplinary, crossing the boundaries of various fields of research, ranging from political science and economics to urban studies. It covers a wide range of topics related to area development, including globalisation, architecture, urban planning, urban management, urban economics, land policy, finance, real estate management and public–private partnership.
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