Social scientists from around the world are looking to the rapid
development of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) for answers to
challenges from urban landscapes sweeping across developing
The phenomenon of "urban villages", usually recognized as dirty
and disorderly areas in a metropolis due to irrational urban
development, holds enormous potential, the scientists said.
Such urban sprawl in the PRD should be developed into commercial
centers or made into a variety of complementary landscapes, they
The social scientists are part of a group of 90 participants in
a six-year research program on megacities, which have populations
exceeding 1 million.
The program, which started two years ago and supported by the
German Research foundation, includes scientists from places such as
Hong Kong, Germany and Bangladesh.
The researchers picked the PRD and Dhaka, the capital of
Bangladesh, to study the informal dynamics of global change in the
"The PRD is one of the regions in the world with the fastest
development. Bangladesh is a country seeing rapid population growth
and loose government regulation," Frauke Fraas, a geography
professor at the University of Cologne in Germany, who is also a
coordinator of the program, told China Daily.
"We want to compare the two countries."
Six groups of researchers are staying in the PRD to do their
research, while a further three groups are staying in Dhaka.
Megacities are being seen as a result of globalization and have,
up until now, been largely unregulated and informal in their
But any accompanying urban village, in Guangzhou or other cities
of the PRD, should be tapped for development in several ways, Li
Yongning, a professor at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences,
"Liede Village is a good example," Li said, citing one of the
largest urban villages in Guangzhou.
There are plans to build a commercial center combining shopping
malls, hotels, commercial mansions and high-class residential
buildings in the Liede area.
Another way is to preserve part of an urban village's old
structures while accommodating new buildings, Li said.
Apart from researching urban villages, the groups are also
investigating migrant workers in the PRD.
Li Yongning, the leader of the research group studying the
issue, said migrant workers now possess higher educational
backgrounds and are more skilled than their predecessors in the
1980s and 90s.
As a result, these laborers earn higher incomes and contribute
to increasing labor costs, he said.
He said he sees the country being forced to innovate within the
next decade, as the economy moves away from a manufacturing-based
one fueled by low-cost labor.
(China Daily November 20, 2007)