SCIENTIA GEOGRAPHICA SINICA ›› 2014, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (6): 687-695.doi: 10.13249/j.cnki.sgs.2014.06.687

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Spatial Transformation in Globalization: A Case Study of Dongshan, Guangzhou in 1890s-1930s

De-sheng XUE(), He-mian HUANG, Yang WANG   

  1. Geography and Planning School, SUN Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510275, China
  • Received:2013-10-20 Revised:2014-03-03 Online:2014-06-10 Published:2014-06-10


Criticizing the classical world city theories as “presentism”, the historical studies of world cities have become emerging research subjects in this new century. Although many researches have examined the spatial transformation of world cities in a “long-term” perspective, few lights are shed on the cultural, social and political elements. Using the historical materials, such as maps, literatures and reports, this article chooses Dongshan, a well-known historical district in the east side of Guangzhou, as a case, and attempts to rediscover its spatial transformation in globalization at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. It finds that, in the historical period, the transformation of Dongshan, from village to residential area of bureaucratic elites, extends the urban area sharply and changes the spatial structure of the whole city. Four kinds of dynamics are identified and integrated as a special model in promoting the spatial transformation: 1) The Christianity, as the beginning one, invests in the district first and provides medical and educational facilities to returnees and bureaucratic elites; 2) The oversea Chinese, as the basic one, chooses to dwell here and provides capital to the Christianity and governmental projects; 3) The government, as the guiding one, promotes modern urban planning to reshape the space and plays as a policy constitutor. Its permissions for mission work and encouragement in investment from overseas Chinese are crucial for the former two dynamics; 4) The bureaucratic elites build houses here and finally create the image of the district as a prosperous place. The story of Dongshan could challenge the classical world city theories in three aspects: 1) It provides a Chinese case to prove the importance of historical views again; 2) Not just global economic links, the global cultural factors, such as the Christianity, the cultural links between overseas Chinese and homeland, could also promote urban developments. The economic variable is not as decisive as Friedmann argues; 3) Especially in Chinese cities, the role of government and bureaucratic elites are important, but neglected in classical theories. Influenced by the classical theories, most of the historical studies on world cities still focus on the economic factors, this article attempts to argue that, non-economic factors, including cultural, social and political ones, should be involved in future analysis.

Key words: world cities, globalization, spatial transformations, Guanghzou, urban history

CLC Number: 

  • K901.9