China's mass urbanisation projects mean the end for Guangzhou's 800-year-old urban villages

By He Huifeng / | April 22, 2019 6:52 PM SGT
A doomsday atmosphere has developed in the village of Chentian on the outskirts of Guangzhou, the capital of China's Guangdong province. Red banners urge local residents to leave the village that has stood for over 800 years, small shops are clearing out their inventories, and people who have lived there for decades are nervously debating their uncertain futures.
The whole mini world of Chentian " made up of hundreds of low-rise concrete buildings and thousands of small shops and restaurants dotting narrow streets, and supporting the daily routines of an estimated 100,000 residents not far from the city's airport " will begin to disappear in the coming months and years, according to the Guangzhou government plan, to be replaced by a cluster of high-end shopping malls and residential buildings.
Chentian is just one of 272 urban villages under threat in Guangzhou's three-year action plan for 2018-2020 as the city rushes to modernise itself to become the hub of the "Greater Bay Area" and to catch up with the other large cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, although it is not clear if they are all under threat within the time frame.
The Chentian village development plan, which covers an area of 60 hectares (150 acres) or three times the size of Victoria Park in Hong Kong, is just a small piece of Guangzhou's plan to redevelop 320 sq km of urban villages, or four times the size of Hong Kong Island.
Some demolition work in Chentian village has already started.
The eye-popping urbanisation plan in Guangzhou, in turn, is just one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of Chinese municipal urbanisation plans that will transform the country's landscape and power the country's development but also inflict pain on disadvantaged residents as well as also create huge debts that pose potential risks in the future.
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