In Brief: A Sane Approach to Development and Demolitions?

It’s no secret that we’ve been dwelling a lot on housing demolitions lately here, in no small part because that is the single biggest source of anger and unrest in China right now, and no one seemed to be doing anything about it. Oh sure, the central government passed a law that makes forced demolition illegal, and who knows, it might even get enforced. But China has a lot of laws, and they have a tendency to be enforced rather, um, selectively.

So it is with some measure of hope that I read this article, about Wang Yang, Guangdong’s Party secretary:

Late last month Wang said the provincial government should relax its time-table of demolishing and redeveloping as many as 138 older urban settlements in and around the provincial capital of Guangzhou in ten years.

Wang’s comments, made in Italy, initially sounded like the sort of liberal pronouncements Premier Wen Jiabao sometimes makes when he is overseas. But last week, the Southern Metropolis Daily, the relatively independent Guangzhou newspaper, reported that local officials have stopped redevelopment in areas of the City with traditional buildings.

It quoted local officials saying that the time-table would now be 20 or even 30 years. Officials subsequently told the South China Morning Post that they would have more consultation with local residents affected by the measures that they hoped would help ease tensions over demolitions.

Words matched by actions? Actually addressing an issue directly and constructively rather than just ignoring it and banning all discussion related to it? Taking the common people’s opinion of development projects into account? Who are you, and what have you done with the Guangdong CCP apparatus? Zing!

But seriously, unless there’s more going on here than we know about, this seems like a good thing. Delaying projects and actually talking to the people affected should help the government determine which projects are necessary or real improvements, and which projects are just destroying people’s homes for a quick buck. Much as I distrust the government’s ability to make that judgement, I’ve got to give the Guangdong boys credit here for at least coming up with the idea and starting the follow through. Here’s hoping they keep it up!

Although, that Financial Times article also says the CCP just celebrated its 80th anniversary (it’s actually the 90th), so I’m not sure the FT folks are totally on top of this story…

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0 thoughts on “In Brief: A Sane Approach to Development and Demolitions?”

  1. While this term is called Eminent domain everywhere else in the world, it is called forced demolitions in China. Go figure.

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  2. Pug_ster – No. It’s not called “eminent domain” anywhere but the US – in the UK it is called a “compulsory purchase order”, which rather more accurately describes why it’s not the same as a forced demolition, since adequate compensation must be offered. At least in the UK, the value of the housing subject to compulsory purchase is decided by the going rate, and the plan itself is subject to judicial review, planning laws including consultation stages etc.. Remember how some of your Fenqing colleagues love to go on about how dictatorship is superior to democracy exactly because it is no subject to these kinds of restraint? Well, there you go.

    I could go on, but let me put this simply – find me one example of someone burning themselves to death in the UK because their home was subject to a compulsory purchase order. What’s that, can’t find one? Could be because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    And yes, I know I’m going against what I said on the other thread about not feeding trolls, but this was just way too stupid to let slip.

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  3. FOARP, maybe you’re the one who’s trolling since you brought up the ‘dictatorship is superior to democracy’ garbage.

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  4. Wang is someone to watch, I think. He was one of the only – if not *the* only, I’d have to double check – CCP official to public state that ethnic policies in China are a direct cause of ethnic unrest and therefore should be reformed. Heresy – as the narrative in minority areas is that policy is just fine thank you very much and the unrest is all due to foreign meddling. Again, between statements like these and the development halting mentioned in the OP, it shows that either Wang Yang is a unique thinker or merely highlights how shitty the system is when we have to get excited about someone making two remotely reasonable observations.

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