If you aren’t subscribed the the weekly emails of Access Asia, you should be. This week they are trashing the new version of the Rough Guide – the other Lonely Planet – on China, which praises the new "eco-village" being built on Chongming Island outside of Shanghai as representing "the most forward-thinking philosophy in the world." Quite a statement, and one which the boys at Access Asia proceed to rip apart:
The boosters would have you believe that Dongtan is a vision of China’s green future, rather than just a small project on the outskirts of a big non-green city that is likely to stay that way. In short, Dongtan goes ahead, costing US$2 billion for the first phase alone, while building codes in Shanghai remain somewhere between lax and non-existent, doing nothing to encourage environmental protection or energy saving. While in winter heaters pump out heat that goes straight out the window, in summer the air cons do the same with cool air (meaning most of us freeze all winter and boil all summer, despite rising electricity bills) while efficient water use is not monitored…
There is a little historical tradition in China that Dongtan fits into quite nicely. Those of you who were students of recent Chinese history may recall the case study of the Shenfan collective farm, a Dongtan of its day. Indeed, William Hinton’s book Shenfan remains on the reading list for many Chinese Studies courses, despite being blatant propaganda for Mao’s disastrous agricultural policies. The hype surrounding Dongtan today feels a lot like Shenfan then (with the added extra of some Round Eye involvement and much cash), a model project that was largely smoke and mirrors, but that succeeded in one major aim – to get journalists (and Rough Guide writers) to wax lyrical and make everything seem OK. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now. We humbly submit that Dongtan is not a solution but rather a mask and a diversion – just as Shenfan drew the hacks while famine gripped the nation, so Dongtan draws the crowds while environmental rot continues untreated. Enjoy your day.
Well done, lads.