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Fantasy Islands

Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Fantasy Islands
    Book Description:

    The rise of China and its status as a leading global factory are altering the way people live and consume. At the same time, the world appears wary of the real costs involved.Fantasy Islandsprobes Chinese, European and American eco-desire and eco-technological dreams as a solution to environmental degradation in this age of global economic change.Uncovering the stories of sites in China, including the plan for a new eco-city called Dongtan on the island of Chongming, mega-suburbs, and the Shanghai World Expo, Julie Sze explores the flows, fears and fantasies of Pacific Rim politics that shaped them. She charts how climate change discussions align with US fears of China's ascendancy and the related demise of the American Century, and she considers the motives of financial and political capital for eco-city and ecological development between elite power structures in the UK and China.Fantasy Islandsshows how ineffectual these efforts are while challenging us to see what a true eco-city would be.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95982-8
    Subjects: History, Architecture and Architectural History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    I stood on a wooden deck overlooking the Dongtan wetlands in the blistering August heat and humidity. The wetlands are a stopover on the East Asia–Australia migratory shorebird flyway and located on the eastern edge of Chongming Island. The island is located twenty miles east of Shanghai’s glitzy downtown, seven miles across the Yangtze River. It is the world’s largest alluvial island, formed by deposits from the river. The island has doubled in size since the 1940s, and it is either the second or third largest island in China.¹ Chongming is on the proverbial rise, fast-tracked for ecological and...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Fear, Loathing, Eco-Desire: Chinese Pollution in a Transnational World
    (pp. 23-54)

    In 1983, when I visited China, I was an obnoxious American saddled with a bowl haircut. I was also the literal embodiment of my parents’ triumphant return to a country they had long ago left, since everyone approvingly told my parents that I was a good “Fai Zai” (fat boy). Everyone was wearing communist outfits—blue jackets, hats, and dark pants. I had little interest in the endless parade of extended family or the historic sites and instead obsessively played with my handheld video game. At Tiananmen Square, I turned the game on for the umpteenth time. In it, Mickey...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Changing Chongming
    (pp. 55-80)

    The epigraphs to this chapter describe the same place, Chongming Island—the first as fertile fantasy, the latter as a land beset by wartime terror. The description of Chongming Island as a smorgasbord of nations and tastes was published to both celebrate and imagine the glorious eco-future in Dongtan. The second epigraph is from a history of Chinese collaboration during the brutal Japanese occupation in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

    This juxtaposition unsettled me—neither of them fits what I thought I knew about the island, the place where my father was born and about which my mother constantly...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Dreaming Green: Engineering the Eco-City
    (pp. 81-102)

    I knew I was getting close to Dongtan when my taxi passed three large wind turbines (bird-lovers hate turbines because birds meet grisly ends in the gigantic blades). The Japanese-built blades turned slowly, cutting through the humid and thick air. My parents had insisted that their friend come with me. Intensely hypersocial, she helped me get through the meals with my father’s extended relatives, mediating expertly between my Shanghai and their Chongming dialect. After lunch, my father’s first cousin’s son walked us to his shiny black car, apologized for not taking us to Dongtan, and got us quickly to the...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR It’s a Green World After All? Marketing Nature and Nation in Suburban Shanghai
    (pp. 103-129)

    Whether or not significant development takes place at Dongtan, we will always have Thames Town to visit. Thames Town is a literal recreation of “authentic British-ness” located on Shanghai’s outskirts. Built in 2001, Thames Town is an already decaying “English” village complete with Tudor-style pubs, corner shops, Edwardian houses, Canary Wharf, and Victoria redbrick warehouses—an amalgamation of hundreds of years of British architecture. The decay here is not mere metaphor but literal, in the “walk carefully or that panel of faux-wood that is already half off will fall on you” sense. The majority of visitors are young newlyweds who...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Imagining Ecological Urbanism at the World Expo
    (pp. 130-158)

    From the empty streets on Shanghai’s periphery, I traveled to the city’s glittering entrée to the global stage, the 2010 World Expo. Billed as the largest gathering of nations ever assembled, more than seventy million people visited the expo site on the Shanghai waterfront during a six-month span. In an old stereoscopic view of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition that I own, a packed scene of thousands of men with moustaches wearing bowler hats and a few ladies in fashionable dresses faced the cameras with a line at the bottom describing the scene as “A Surging Sea of Humanity.” Visiting...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 159-164)

    This book situates sustainability discourses in Shanghai as a particularly significant case study of ideological formations of the “environment” in a specific place at a particular moment. I have used a multimethodological analysis that takes different spatial and temporal scales into account in understanding what happened on Chongming Island, at Dongtan, in the suburbs, and at the world expo in Shanghai in the latter half of the first decade of what has been called the coming “Chinese Century.” At the same time that I argue that my case study is unique and exceptional, I also suggest that the failures of...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 165-200)
    (pp. 201-204)
    (pp. 205-220)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 221-236)