by TIAN SHICHENG
SINGAPORE (China Daily Show) – A delegation from Beijing surprised guests at this year’s World Architectural Festival by revealing that most modern Chinese cities are based on “Los Angeles in the mid-60s to early 70s.”
For decades, the smog-plagued California city has been the main model for China’s high-density urban development, officials from its Central Bureau of Urban Planning told a panel.
The chief delegate, surnamed Zhang, blamed the seemingly counterintuitive decision on a “bureaucratic oversight caused by latent bourgeois thinking.”
Previous urban planners had first considered emulating Strasbourg’s leafy, gentrified center and pleasant suburbs – or even mimicking the delightfully spacious Modernist façade of Sydney, with its thriving arts scene – “but instead settled on LA,” said Zhang.
The LA plan called for the demolition of buildings of architectural value, concreting over any green space and the introduction of heavy-polluting industries. As Chinese incomes rose during the 1980s, it was decided to integrate all further growth around Dallas’s love of expensive sedan cars.
“Now, every city in China fuses Detroit’s aesthetic with the urban sprawl of Atlanta, and is impossible to inhabit without amassing obscene wealth – just like LA,” Zhang confirmed.
Experts say the root of the problem dates back to the 1950s, when architects, conservationists, engineers and urban planners were forbidden from attending Soviet Friendship Scheme for Revolutionary Urban Improvement meetings, due to “bad class backgrounds.”
“Organizers only knew the names of a handful of world cities,” planning scholar Huang Hua explained. “Paris was rejected on the grounds of its reactionary art scene, London for its imperialist architecture, and Rome for its commitment to fine living and al fresco dining.
“Nobody could suggest using traditional Chinese planning as a model, because that was feudal – which left us with LA or Moscow.” As relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated under Khrushchev, it was agreed that “not even a drunken capitalist” would suggest Moscow as an example of proper city planning, which left only Los Angeles.
“They got the maps, the blueprints, the funding and never looked back. Now look what we’re stuck with,” Zhang told delegates. “No green spaces, no history, eerily deserted financial districts and every road is a fucking parking lot.”
Zhang added that, due to a fresh bureaucratic error made in 2004, plans were now already underway for China to match LA’s rates of crime and homelessness by the mid-2020s.