The symbiotic relationship between urban villages and the city: implications for redevelopment strategies
Dynamic urbanization in Guangzhou has led to the emergence and proliferation of “urban village” (chengzhongcun) or “villages in the city” (ViCs). Due to its unique position as the provincial capital and its designation as one of the 14 coastal open cities back in 1984, Guangzhou has attracted a considerable share of capital and mass migrants for labor intensive industries and service sectors. The urban area has expanded markedly in the past 30 years, and consequently, a great number of villages at the fringes of the city have been swallowed up by urban development. Urban villages are created when agricultural land is used for urban development while village settlements remain untouched in order to avoid costly compensation and relocation programmes. Deprived of their traditional agricultural resources, the villagers “illegally” construct their houses to accommodate mass migrants, who are institutionally and economically excluded by the urban system. Although the total area of 138 urban villages in Guangzhou only amounts to 20 percent of the total urban area, they house around 70 percent of migrants who comprise 40 percent of the total urban population (Li 2004 ). Consequently, urban villages become informal settlements, characterized by overcrowding and high density.