A libertarian city in communist China
This city is part of a larger story that I currently call Paradeisos, because humans and nature have been separated in order to survive. Humanity therefore lives in “enclosed gardens”, while most of the Earth returns to the state of virgin nature. This futuristic city was born shortly before, at a time of despair and cynicism. It should be used to develop science-fiction stories, in a cyberpunk “high tech, low life” way while other regions of the world will have achieved the exact opposite: “high life, low tech”.
To bail out the bankrupt Chinese state, the 2042 agreement allows the creation of new Special Administrative Zones. (in accordance with a clause of the agreement, it is forbidden to use the term “concession”). A corporatist board, the Delta Lodge Holding, known as the Lodge, began construction in 2049. Officially, the city depends on the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone. On the western bank of the pearl river delta, near the Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macao Bridge, the land is allocated by the Chinese government for 99 years.
The new city of 50 000 inhabitants is built on a polder, anticipating the rise of ocean level.
The city was originally designed as a demonstrator of a large-scale autarkic space station. The hydroponic farms produce sufficient food, air and water for 30 000 peoples. Thus, Delta Lodge companies are major contractors of space industry and work with asian governments. They operate the city as a luxury residence for their employees; executives, engineers and technicians. Xinnanhai provides a very advantageous tax and legal extra-territorail framework compared to mainland China.
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Upper city – Arcology & Superstructure
The upper part is an arcology designed so that its inhabitants can live and work inside. Massive buildings are connected to each other by a 5 km long by 3 km wide enclosed megastructure. An air and water purification and recycling network ensure the self-sufficiency of the upper part. This superstructure offers a vast complex of housing, offices, shopping and leisure centres connected by internal streets, promenades, gardens and squares, a metro. These privatized spaces are compartmentalized according to the resident’s rank (Platinium, Gold, Silver or Bronze).
Recreational areas include air theme parks such as “Tianshan pure range” with its invigorating thermal waters or “Heidi Tyrolean Village” and its alpine zoo. They offer pure air to breathe, perfumed with natural scents. In matter of sports, the upper town welcomes a famous key stage of the World Championship of Indoor UAV Races, as well as major pro-gaming competitions. The few outdoors areas are on the roofs of the tallest buildings. People party on terraces with swimming pools, nightclubs or luxury restaurants when the air quality is good enough. On security, the lodge private police boast one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
Lower City – Infrastructure
The other half of the population lives in ordinary buildings wedged between the folds of the infra-structure. Residents occupy unskilled service and maintenance jobs. Their work permit is limited to 10 years maximum. If salaries are good, the living environment is not: these neighbourhoods are not connected to the high quality networks of the upper city. However, the Delta Lodge has the legal obligation to provide a basic service of water, air and energy but this one is insufficient and often defective. Worse, the lower part receives all kinds of toxic discharges.
As a result, residents spend a large part of their income on filters. Outside air, while breathable, is dangerous without a filter mask. So much so that life expectancy without a purification device is estimated at only 20 years in the lower city. Typical places to relax are air bars, such as the luxurious “Air de Paris” or the most popular “575 haiku Club”. The lower city recalls the famous Kowloon walled city of Hong Kong by its human density and its insalubrity. However, the very liberal police of the Lodge tolerates the black market and limits its interventions to the crimes.
The megalopolis of the Pearl River Delta
At the start of the 21st century, China set out to create its Silicon valley in the Pearl River Delta. The project is called Great Bay Area (大 湾区). It provides for a distribution of roles for the cities: Hong Kong will be the financial center, Shenzhen the technological pole, Macao for leisure and Guangzhou (Canton) for industry.
The local ecological situation has only worsened since the beginning of the century. Air pollution is mainly due to human actions and natural disasters caused by man. Dust storms are blowing from the Yellow River following the ecological failure of the Great Green Wall. While the persistence of combustion engines, charcoal and wood fires still in use in rural areas makes air unbreathable in winter. Finally, forest fires in Siberia or South East Asia and local industrial discharges worsen the whole.
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Chronology from 2019 to 2063 – the end of the “Chinese dream”.
2019 – 2020
The local government of Hong Kong has always refused to give in to the “5 demands” of the people. The democratic movement ends with the new security law dictated by the Beijing government. Protesters are stripped of their jobs or their homes. There are rumors of false suicides and deportations to re-education camps on the continent. The “one country, two systems” principle is kept in front so as not to penalize the economy, but in practice freedom of speech and democracy are controlled from Beijing.
The People’s Republic of China invades Taiwan. Military operations are fast and victorious, while the USA has not known or wanted to react in time. Humiliated, President Trump finally accepts a fait accompli in exchange for a new, more advantageous trade agreement. This triggers a departure of foreign capital from China. The party considers these harmful consequences as a necessary step for the restoration of Chinese sovereignty in Taiwan.
2022 – Xi Jinping’s triumph
Xi Jiping is acclaimed as China’s “great unifier” at the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. And immediatly unanimously re-elected for his third term as First Secretary. Official iconography puts him on a par with Mao as the father of the nation. Xi inscribes in his constitution his doctrine of “party-state” above society: “one party, one country, one system”.
The economic crisis has major consequences and the “Chinese dream” is beginning to fade. For the first time since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, the country is going into recession.
Internally, the party had founded its legitimacy by guaranteeing prosperity to the people in exchange for strict control of society. It is losing the support of part of the population impoverished by the crisis. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, protesters are demanding democracy and freedom of speech. All over of the country, demonstrators are calling for an end to censorship, social credit and facial recognition.
Outside, One belt one road , the huge network of cross-continental trade routes is idle. Many countries are no longer able to buy Chinese products and repay their loans from China. Thus, the miracle of “win-win” markets has become a “lose-lose” abyss.
2029 – “the fifth modernization”
First Secretary Xi Jiping retires before the end of his fourth term, pushed out. The party has no choice but to initiate limited democratization in order to ease political unrest.
It launches “The Fifth Modernization”, a democratic process to be achieved in 2049. For the first time, genuine elections are being held in the autonomous provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang.
Tensions arise between China and its Russian ally in the Arctic region. Indeed, Russia blames China for a hegemonic will through its investments. It nationalises Norilsk airport and expels 500,000 illegal Chinese workers. Chinese retaliation remains limited to keep the alliance of Russia.
Sign of changing times, the party seeks compromises to retain power. He accepts a limited return of the “one country, two systems” principle to Taiwan. Shortly after, the Special Economic Zones obtain equivalent freedoms. As a result of these reforms, foreign investment is returning and the economic situation is improving. However, China is no longer strong as at the beginning of the century, it doubts its flickering political system.
2039-2041 – Succession crisis
Chongqing party leader Gu Biao and Wang Shanshan of Ghangzhou clash for the position of first secretary. The military take sides with one or the other, pushing the country to the brink of civil war. But Wang is shot and Gu becomes first secretary. At the 24th Congress, the party avoids explosion by allowing political wings within it.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region regains its special “one country, two systems” status the very year it should have ended. Locals now speak openly about independence.
The centennial of the People’s Republic of China is celebrated with pomp but few enthusiasm. Despite the restored prosperity, the country is split into rival provincial powers. New strong men from the party seize public companies and local committees. While claiming to maintain the unity of the country, they act foremost their own personal interest. The Chinese people fear a return to the chaotic episodes of Chinese history.
Guangdong Regional Government and Delta Lodge Holding launch Xin Nan Hai construction in Zhuhai. This libertarian-inspired microstate serves as a model for other regional administrations eager for tax revenues.
2050-2063 – The third republic of China
China is going through a black series of political crises against the backdrop of an aging population and ecological despair. In fact, the one-party-state only exist theoretically. The 26th congress of 2052 fails to elect a new first secretary and then the position is abolished. Decisions are therefore taken by the central committee by a majority. As a result, the state and the government are paralyzed by internal struggles.
On May 1, 2059 in Beijing, the crowd sacks Zhongnanhai, in front of the army that does not intervene. Two days later, the protesters proclaim the third Republic of China on Tian’anmen Square. While the traditional values of Confucianism are coming back, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is now considered a foreign ideology.
Hong Kong and Taiwan proclaim their independence in 2061. They declare themselves republics-sisters of the new Republic of China.
arcology city megalopolis china
About the project.
I started it in 2012 back from a stay in mainland China and Hong Kong. At that time the theme of “airpocalypse”, extreme air pollution, was prevalent in Chinese news. I was particularly impressed by Wuhan, drowned in an incredibly dense winter fog. Its dry air had a disturbing taste.
I talked about it to an artist friend, David Blasco, who made a 3D animation short film called “Anaérobie”, which takes place in a futuristic city with a toxic and unbreathable air. As i recall, this city could have been located on another planet as the environnement was highly toxic. (His film remains unfinished). We worked together on a new scenario, a pitch would have been like this:
An elderly worker wants to leave the city before dying. He needs a lot of clean air for his trip and has been patiently built a plan to achieve it but i knows an eye is watching him.
The democratic movement in Hong Kong in 2019 pushed me to update this pessimistic vision of the future. China today is an authoritarian state that has taken censorship, social control and repression of its people to a level unprecedented in history. Now Hong Kong has been deprived of his freedom and the tour of Taiwan is approaching. All of this was not as clear in 2012.
arcology city megalopolis china