Does the rise of pseudo-public spaces lead to the ‘end of public space’ in large Chinese cities? Evidence from Shanghai and Chongqing

Abstract

Open spaces in shopping malls and commercial complexes are publicly accessible and resemble public spaces, but they are designed and managed for seeking profit and serving paying customers. They are pseudo-public spaces. The emergence of pseudo-public spaces has drawn great scholarly attention, and, in the West, some critical scholars argue it leads to the ‘end of public space’. When it comes to China, empirical studies on the rise of pseudo-public spaces and their consequences in this particular context can hardly be found in the existing literature. However, China is experiencing a new form of urbanism which is meaningfully different from the Western ones. Drawing on case studies in two Chinese cities, this paper discusses how pseudo-public spaces rise in China, assesses to what degrees Chinese pseudo-public spaces are public and analyses how the rise of pseudo-public spaces impacts the publicness of Chinese urban space. The findings suggest that, although pseudo-public spaces are generally less public than traditional public spaces in China, the rise of these spaces does not necessarily lead to the ‘end of public space’ in the country. Additional studies are required to determine the political–economic consequences of the resulting property relations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Source Authors

Fig. 2

Source Authors

Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Source Fieldwork, February 2015

Fig. 5

Source Fieldwork, February 2016

Fig. 6

Source Fieldwork, February 2016

Fig. 7

Source http://studioshanghai.co/project. Accessed 29 May 2016

Fig. 8

Source Fieldwork, February 2016

Fig. 9

Source Fieldwork, February 2017

Fig. 10

Source based on date collected through direct-countings during the fieldwork (On-site direct-countings were carried out every two hours during the business hours: from 10:00 to 20:00. The numbers illustrated in each of the above diagrams are arithmetic averages of data collected in 3 different weekdays. All on-site direct-countings were conducted in fine weather spring days, when the temperature and weather conditions were suitable for outdoor activities)

Fig. 11

Source Fieldwork, February 2016

Fig. 12

Source Fieldwork, February 2016

Notes

  1. 1.

    The average house price of Xintiandi area during late 2001 and early 2002 was about 16,000 yuan per square metre. The 2015 average house price (120,000 yuan per square metre) was for second-hand houses. This information draws on conversations with local real estate agents during the fieldwork.

  2. 2.

    This information draws on conversations with local real estate agents.

  3. 3.

    The price increase is based on Chongqing Municipal Statistics Bureau (2015), Table 7–29: Sales price indices of houses (1998–2014).

  4. 4.

    This figure is the average annual wage of workers employed by ‘non-private enterprises’. Data on the average wage of workers employed by ‘private enterprises’ are not available. Therefore, this figure is merely indicative.

  5. 5.

    This information draws on conversations with local real estate agents.

References

  1. Akkar, M. 2005. The Changing ‘Publicness’ of Contemporary Public Spaces: A Case Study of the Grey’s Monument Area, Newcastle upon Tyne. Urban Design International 10 (2): 95–114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Amin, S. 2005. Theory and Practice of the Chinese “Market Socialism” Project: is “Market Socialism” an Alternative to Liberal Globalization? In The Chinese Model of Modern Development, ed. T.Y. Cao, 128–150. London: Routledge.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  3. Benjamin, W. 2002. The Arcades Project. London: Belknap Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bottomley, A., and N. Moore. 2007. From Walls to Membranes: Fortress Polis and the Governance of Urban Public Space in 21st Century Britain. Law and Critique 18 (2): 171–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Broudehoux, A.M. 2004. The Making and Selling of Post-Mao Beijing. New York: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  6. Carmona, M. 2010. Contemporary Public Space, Part Two: Classification. Journal of Urban Design 15 (2): 157–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Carr, S. 1992. Public Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Chongqing Municipal Statistics Bureau. 2015. Chongqing Statistical Yearbook 2015. Beijing: China Statistics Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Cuthbert, A.R., and K.G. McKinnell. 1997. Ambiguous Space, Ambiguous Rights—Corporate Power and Social Control in Hong Kong. Cities 14 (5): 295–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cuthbert, A.R., and K.G. McKinnell. 2001. Public Domain, Private Interest—Social Space in Hong Kong. In Public Places in Aisa Pacific Cities: Current Issues and Strategies, ed. P. Miao, 191–214. Dordrencht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  11. De Magalhães, C., and S. Freire Trigo. 2016. Contracting Out Publicness: The Private Management of the Urban Public Realm and Its Implications. Progress in Planning. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.progress.2016.01.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dovey, K. 1999. Framing Places: Mediating Power in Built Form. London: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  13. Ekdi, F.P., and H. Cıracı. 2015. Really Public? Evaluating the Publicness of Public Spaces in Istanbul by Means of Fuzzy Logic Modelling. Journal of Urban Design 20 (5): 658–676.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Erkip, F. 2005. The Rise of the Shopping Mall in Turkey: the Use and Appeal of a Mall in Ankara. Cities 22 (2): 89–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Featherstone, M. 1998. The Flaneur, the City and Virtual Public Life. Urban Studies 35 (5–6): 909–924.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Gaubatz, P. 1999. China’s Urban Transformation: Patterns and Processes of Morphological Change in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Urban Studies 36 (9): 1495–1521.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gehl, J. 2011. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space, 6th ed. (Trans: J. Koch). Washington, DC: Island Press.

  18. Gehl Architects. 2004. Towards a Fine City for People: Public Spaces and Public Life in London. Urban Quality Consulting Report. Copenhagen: Gehl Architects.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Haila, A. 2016. Urban Land Rent: Singapore as A Property State. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Han, S.S., and Y. Wang. 2001. Chongqing. Cities 18 (2): 115–125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Harvey, D. 2007. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Harvey, D. 2011. The Enigma of Capital: and the Crises of Capitalism, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. He, S., and G.C. Lin. 2015. Producing and Consuming China’s New Urban Space: State, Market and Society. Urban Studies 52 (15): 2757–2773.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Iovine, J. V. 2006. Our Man in Shanghai: Ben Wood Takes on History. The New York Times, August 13. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/arts/design/13iovi.html. Accessed 27 March 2015.

  25. Jiang, W. 2010. “Menqian sanbao” zerenzhi de fazhan licheng” [The Development Process of the Policy of “Three Responsibilities in the Gate Area”]. Beijing Party History 6: 52–54.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Jin, W. 1993. The Historical Development of Chinese Urban Morphology. Planning Perspectives 8 (1): 20–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Frank, Knight. 2014. Shangye zongheti de fazhan qushi ji chenggong yaosu yanjiu baogao [Report on the Development Trend and Success Factors of Commercial Complexes]. Knight Frank Real Estate Research Report. Shanghai: Knight Frank.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Kohn, M. 2004. Brave New Neighborhoods: the Privatization of Public Space. New York: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  29. Lai, L., and F. Lorne. 2014. Ambiguous Property Rights: A Taxonomic and Exploratory Account of Post-colonial Rural Housing in Chinese Hong Kong. Urban Studies 51 (10): 2052–2067.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Lai, L.W., and F.T. Lorne. 2015. The Fourth Coase Theorem: State Planning Rules and Spontaneity in Action. Planning Theory 14 (1): 44–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Langstraat, F., and R. Van Melik. 2013. Challenging the ‘End of Public Space’: A Comparative Analysis of Publicness in British and Dutch Urban Spaces. Journal of Urban Design 18 (3): 429–448.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Lin, G.C.S. 2010. Understanding Land Development Problems in Globalizing China. Eurasian Geography and Economics 51 (1): 80–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Madanipour, A. 1995. Dimensions of Urban Public Space: the Case of the Metro Centre, Gateshead. Urban Design Studies 1: 45–56.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Mantey, D. 2017. The ‘Publicness’ of Suburban Gathering Places: The Example of Podkowa Leśna Warsaw Urban Region, Poland. Cities. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2016.07.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Mehta, V. 2014. Evaluating Public Space. Journal of Urban Design 19 (1): 53–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Miao, P. 2011. Brave New City: Three Problems in Chinese Urban Public Space since the 1980s. Journal of Urban Design 16 (2): 179–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Minzner, C. 2015. China After the Reform Era. Journal of Democracy 26 (3): 129–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Mitchell, D. 2003. The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Napoleoni, L. 2011. Maonomics: Why Chinese Communists Make Better Capitalists Than We Do. New York: Seven Stories.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Németh, J. 2009. Defining a Public: The Management of Privately Owned Public Space. Urban Studies 46 (11): 2463–2490.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Németh, J., and S. Schmidt. 2007. Toward a Methodology for Measuring the Security of Publicly Accessible Spaces. Journal of the American Planning Association 73 (3): 283–297.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Németh, J., and S. Schmidt. 2011. The Privatization of Public Space: Modeling and Measuring Publicness. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 38: 5–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Obeng-Odoom, F. 2014. Oiling the Urban Economy: Land, Labour, Capital, and the State in Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana. London: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  44. Obeng-Odoom, F. 2016a. Reconstructing Urban Economics: Towards a Political Economy of the Built Environment. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Obeng-Odoom, F. 2016b. Property in the Commons: Origins and Paradigms. Review of Radical Political Economics 48 (1): 9–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Oc, T., and S. Tiesdell. 1999. The Fortress, the Panoptic, the Regulatory and the Animated: Planning and Urban Design Approaches to Safer City Centres. Landscape Research 24 (3): 265–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Pan, F., F. Zhang, S. Zhu, and D. Wójcik, 2016. Developing by Borrowing? Inter-jurisdictional Competition, Land Finance and Local Debt Accumulation in China. Urban Studies. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098015624838.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Shanghai Municipal Statistics Bureau. 2013. Shanghai Statistical Yearbook 2013. Beijing: China Statistics Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Shanghai Municipal Statistics Bureau. 2015. Shanghai Statistical Yearbook 2015. Beijing: China Statistics Press.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Sorkin, M. 1992. Variations on A Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space. New York: Hill and Wang.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Tan, Z., and C.Q.L. Xue. 2014. Walking as a Planned Activity: Elevated Pedestrian Network and Urban Design Regulation in Hong Kong. Journal of Urban Design 19 (5): 722–744.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Teiwes, F.C. 1997. The Establishment and Consolidation of the New Regime, 1949-1957. In The Politics of China: the Eras of Mao and Deng, 2nd ed, ed. R. MacFarquhar, 5–86. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  53. Van Melik, R., I. Van Aalst, and J. Van Weesep. 2007. Fear and Fantasy in the Public Domain: The Development of Secured and Themed Urban Space. Journal of Urban Design 12 (1): 25–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Varna, G., and S. Tiesdell. 2010. Assessing the Publicness of Public Space: The Star Model of Publicness. Journal of Urban Design 15 (4): 575–598.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Voyce, M. 2006. Shopping Malls in Australia The End of Public Space and the Rise of ‘Consumerist Citizenship’? Journal of sociology 42 (3): 269–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Wallin, L. 1998. The Stranger on the Green. In Philosophy and Geography II: The Production of Public Space, ed. A. Light, and J.M. Smith, 99–113. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  57. XinhuaNet. (2015) Quanguo qianxiyue shangye dichan kaifa ‘yizhi duxiu’, chayihua huocheng jingzheng yaodian [Commercial Real Estate Development Grew Fast in the First Four Months of This Year, Differentiation May Become Central to the Competition]. 19 May. http://news.xinhuanet.com/house/sjz/2015-05-19/c_1115325712.htm. Accessed 18 June 2015.

  58. Xu, Z., and D. Wang. 2012. Shanghe kongjian xiaofeizhe xingwei yu guihua – yi shanghai Xintiandi weili [Consumers’ Behaviour and Planning in Commercial Spaces: Shanghai Xintiandi as a Case Study]. Planners 28 (1): 23–28.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Xue, C.Q.L. 2006. Building a Revolution: Chinese Architecture Since 1980. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Xue, C.Q.L., L. Ma, and K.C. Hui. 2012. Indoor ‘Public’ Space: A Study of Atria in Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Complexes of Hong Kong. Urban Design International 17 (2): 87–105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Yeh, A.G., and F.L. Wu. 1996. The New Land Development Process and Urban Development in Chinese Cities. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 20 (2): 330–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Yeh, A.G., F.F. Yang, and J. Wang. 2015. Economic Transition and Urban Transformation of China: The Interplay of the State and the Market. Urban Studies 52 (15): 2822–2848.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Zhang, J., and J. Peck. 2016. Variegated Capitalism, Chinese Style: Regional Models, Multi-Scalar Constructions. Regional Studies 50 (1): 52–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Zhang, J., and F. Wu. 2008. Mega-event Marketing and Urban Growth Coalitions: A Case Study of Nanjing Olympic New Town. Town Planning Review 79 (2–3): 209–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Zhu, J. 2002. Urban Development under Ambiguous Property Rights: A Case of China’s Transition Economy. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26 (1): 41–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Zukin, S. 1995. The Cultures of Cities. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge Dr Franklin Obeng-Odoom for his valuable comments on this paper and Prof. Spike Boydell for guidance at an early stage of this research. The authors also thank the three anonymous reviewers, the managing editors and Sian Thompson for their critical and illuminating comments that have contributed greatly to improving the quality of the paper.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yiming Wang.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 4.

Table 4 Index of indicators and scoring criteria for each dimension of the publicness of pseudo-public space.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wang, Y., Chen, J. Does the rise of pseudo-public spaces lead to the ‘end of public space’ in large Chinese cities? Evidence from Shanghai and Chongqing. Urban Des Int 23, 215–235 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41289-018-0064-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Pseudo-public space
  • China
  • Publicness
  • Social-spatial consequences