Territorial Compromises: limits of morphological and civic negotiation

Deregulated economic regions in coastal China, like the Pearl River Delta (PRD) represent a rare condition and an utterly scarce resource in otherwise socialist country. This strained condition unleashed a spontaneous creativity that produced a new urban topography, one that accommodates change well and is highly flexible. 30-year rural industrialization in Dongguan prefecture in PRD created particular morphological structure, which allows for local and global claims to be accommodated within a limited area. The conflicting pressures exerted on the territory have provoked spontaneously-created or improvised topographies that at the same time ‘culturally’ refer to traditional and techno-capitalistic orders. These are distinguished on the basis of treatment of nature. This paper will look closer at the morphological organization and further into the patterns of civic negotiation between the two orders, to outline a unique cohabitation of local grassroots and state official decision making. The negotiation creates zones of ambiguity in which competing claims are negotiated without reference to an overall planning policy, creating a new type of civic order. As the West is trying to engineer this elusive quality, the rural industrialized areas of Dongguan, PRD have it engrained in order to survive.