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Monday, July 02, 2007
The other side of the Dongtan 'exemplar'
I thought this was a good piece of true BBC reporting, exploring whether all is as rosy as it seems in the creation of the 'exemplar ecocity' at Dongtan. None of it surprises me - that it will probably become a "suburb for the rich", that it is being accompanied by potentially disastrous development of shipyards and power plants nearby. But I have been surprised that the building and development press have so far been so blinkered as to the reality of what modern China means for projects like this.

There is the kind of wishfulness (exemplified by much of what Norman Foster says) for the speed and decisiveness of a totalitarian government in making 'big things happen' - architects and developers appear to long for European systems to work so smoothly. But they seem willing to disregard the trophy nature of these projects; the lack of a strong environmental policy from China in any strategic way; the social consequences of mass relocation of people, moulding of land, creation of new 'utopias' with no context to serve political ends.

But while we criticise our government for token gestures in proclaiming tiny new 'ecotowns' on ex-MOD sites, or hailing a fifty-home development as a national showcase for sustainability, we should remember that the 500,000 homes of Dongtan is exactly the same tokenism relative to the scale of China's development over this decade. And at what cost?