Diagnosing Beijing 2020: Mapping the Ungovernable City

Robin Visser

Abstract


Beijing Municipality, characterised by the ‘off-ground’ architecture distinguishing neo-liberal privatisation, is attempting to mitigate the damaging effects of rampant development on the social fabric, cultural heritage, and the environment by adopting sustainable urban planning. I argue that the sustainability rhetoric in the Beijing Municipality 2020 Plans functions in part as strategic metaphors masking unnamed, imminent threats to governance. In this article I diagnose four Beijing plans (Beijing 2006-2015 ‘Rail Transit Plan’ for Compact City, Beijing 2005-2020 ‘Underground Space Plan’ for Alternative Space, Beijing 2006-2020 ‘Undeveloped Area Plan’ for Ecological Responsibility, and Beijing 2006-2010 ‘Low-income Housing Plan’ for Affordability and Liveability). A diagrammatics of the plans illuminates not so much a mapping of Beijing’s future as the forms of spontaneity preoccupying the nation at this historical juncture. The Beijing 2020 plan, as city mapping more generally, discloses the imminence of ungovernable city. The fact that citizens are demanding greater authority over Beijing governance suggests that radical alterations to its urban fabric and quality of life have incited the imminent sociability that is the city.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7480/footprint.2.1.674

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