Quotable (#192)

The cyberpunk-urbanism circuit deftly described:

… the ideas of science fiction resonate very powerfully with how contemporary cities are shaped. Another example might be the designs of Shanghai’s Pudong district, where there’s a very palpable sense of Blade Runner-esque atmospheres. Blade Runner itself was partly shaped by Ridley Scott’s ideas about oriental urbanism and slightly orientalist treatments of street life in the supposedly futuristic Los Angeles. And ideas about Blade Runner are clearly influencing Chinese elites’ ideas about urban futurism. […] … there are even more relationships that are at play here, because once these cityscapes are built — once this extraordinary Blade Runner-esque cityscape in Shanghai is constructed or reconstructed, once Dubai is ratcheted into the skies — then the next generation of sci-fi movies are then filmed in these places to represent the future. You’re already getting a lot of sci-fi movies — like Code 46 by Michael Winterbottom, for example — filmed in these cities. They then become the exemplars of the future, which works very powerfully to help brand these cities as futuristic places, which is half of the battle for these elites: Once they become images for the future, then that’s it.

It does seem like asking whether the chicken or the egg came first, in that sometimes it’s sci-fi inspiring our cityscapes, and other times it’s our cityscapes inspiring sci-fi.

It’s reciprocal. There isn’t an obvious start point for this.

Zones

A wide-angle view of ‘Extrastatecraft‘ and its zones of escape:

No matter its ultimate effectiveness, the zone has proved durable; most recently China’s adoption of the formula has produced an especially potent and self-perpetuating version. If the Export Processing Zone was Zone 1.0, then China’s Special Economic Zone is Zone 2.0. Established in the early 1980s, the first SEZs — Shenzhen, Xiamen, Shantou, Zhuhai, and the entire province of Hainan — were planned as experiments with market economies. By 1984, China had created 16 more, and since then they have established literally thousands of SEZs. Most of these diverge from the typical EPZ, to the point where China now constitutes its own zone category; and an immense one — by 2006 the International Labor Organization had estimated that of the 66 million workers employed in EPZs worldwide, 40 million were in China.

Big Plans

Whatever else this might be, it’s big.

For decades, China’s government has tried to limit the size of Beijing, the capital, through draconian residency permits. Now, the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Beijing the center of a new supercity of 130 million people. […] The planned megalopolis, a metropolitan area that would be about six times the size of New York’s, is meant to revamp northern China’s economy and become a laboratory for modern urban growth. […] “The supercity is the vanguard of economic reform,” said Liu Gang, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin who advises local governments on regional development. “It reflects the senior leadership’s views on the need for integration, innovation and environmental protection.” […] The new region will link the research facilities and creative culture of Beijing with the economic muscle of the port city of Tianjin and the hinterlands of Hebei Province, forcing areas that have never cooperated to work together.

The integrated ‘supercity’ would have a population larger than Japan’s (and larger than all but eight countries in the world, excluding China itself).