Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Articles, lectures, and videos are attached and linked below. Neo Video(2020) : Lecture: Based on the questions below, discus | WriteDen

Articles, lectures, and videos are attached and linked below. Neo Video(2020) : Lecture: Based on the questions below, discus

Articles, lectures, and videos are attached and linked below.

Neo Video(2020) :

Based on the questions below, discuss the pros and cons of coastal reclamation.

  1. What is coastal reclamation? Refer to the lecture video/slides.
  2. As Sengupta et al. (2018) show us, there has been a surge in coastal reclamation across the world. Why is it getting popular? What are main purposes? What benefits does coastal reclamation bring to the society?
  3. Choi's article (2019) and the Neo video (2020) highlight the contentious/controversial aspects of coastal reclamation. What are the social and ecological impacts of coastal reclamation? Also, is coastal reclamation economically viable?
  4. Given all the knowledge you've acquired, what is your own view on coastal reclamation? On what basis would you support it? On what basis would you oppose it?

  1. the rule of CSC — a clear, specific, and coherent writing; and
  2. the length of the writing ( 400 words).



China’s Coasts, a Contested Sustainability Frontier Young Rae Choi

Introduction In September 2014, I attended the International Workshop on Intertidal Wetland

Conservation and Management in the Yellow Sea Provinces of China hosted by the Beijing

Forestry University. The workshop included over 160 participants: officials from national and

provincial levels of the Chinese government, scientists, policy researchers, and representatives

from international and national NGOs and project organizations concerned with the conservation

of tidal flats. Discussion was fuelled by reports from numerous sites along China’s eastern coasts,

all indicating uncontrollable practices of land reclamation and the subsequent loss of tidal flats at

an alarming rate. Local officials demanded that the central government pass stronger regulations

and more effectively enforce the existing ones. Yet, it was clear that even the State Oceanic

Administration, China’s top-tier government apparatus in charge of governing its coastal and

marine space and resources, had little power when it came to safeguarding the disappearing tidal

flats. The conference participants lamented that the Chinese state’s recent eagerness for

sustainable development did not seem to apply to coastal territories that deserve equal

preservation for social and ecological advancement. The workshop ended with a concluding

declaration that illustrated the uneasiness and the urgency that were widely felt at the workshop:

The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China identified eco-civilization as

the national strategy. However, the implementation of national polices including ecological

redlining, a national wetland conservation policy, and eco-compensation, which began a

new era for coastal wetland conservation, never happened … The status of reclamation

and degradation of the Yellow Sea wetlands is extremely shocking and is resulting in a

very critical situation. In the last decade, 2% has been lost every year. 1.4 million ha has

been lost since 2005, making up 22% of the total area of wetlands.1

China’s coasts are going through a massive socioecological transformation. Land

reclamation, accused at the conference and elsewhere of being the most significant threat to the

biodiversity conservation of tidal flats, is a practice that creates land by filling in coastal wetlands

and shallow waters. The latest reclamation boom that began in the early 2000s, enrolling every


coastal province across China, is unprecedented in its scale and speed. Between 2003 and 2005,

the annual reclaimed land area surged more than fivefold, from 21.23 to 116.62 km2. Since then

the annual average has stayed above 100 km2. Roughly speaking, China adds the land equivalent

of two Manhattans every year. The total area of land that China has created post-millennium is

over 1,450 km2.2

While the insatiable desire for land is fast encroaching upon the coasts, resistance to land

reclamation for environmental reasons is becoming even more difficult as the practice of

reclamation is increasingly perceived as ‘ecological’ in twenty-first-century China. This

phenomenon signifies a break from previous assessments of coastal reclamation as one of the

greatest and irreversible causes of marine biodiversity and habitat degradation in the East Asian


While it seems to stand in opposition to the now popular ‘eco-’ agenda of the Chinese

state, reclamation projects today acquire legitimacy under the emerging paradigm of sustainability.

They do this by incorporating eco-cities, renewable energy infrastructure, carefully designed non-

human habitats, and nature reserves into their designs. In contemporary China, reclamation is no

longer about destructive development; it is about creative production (see also Paprocki; Zee;

and McDuie-Ra, this volume). Coastal land reclamation is likewise not a mere land creation

project; it is about envisioning new materialities and values about what China’s future should look

like (see Woodworth and Günel, this volume).

This chapter examines the recent transformations of China’s coasts into resource frontiers

entangled with the country’s broader and deeper societal transformations. Specifically, I look at

how China’s coastal spaces are reconfigured as repositories for land provision and as an

experimental and an idealized platform where China’s new vision for its sustainable future is

projected, tested, and demonstrated (see also Paprocki, this volume). Along with others in this

volume, this chapter conceptualizes China’s coasts as an emergent ‘frontier assemblage’ that is

invented through the works of multiple contingent forces and processes and is subject to new and

more intensive forms of exploitation. Thinking through the notion of frontier assemblage, I draw

upon Tania Li’s works on assembling land as an investible resource (Li, 2014a, b) and Anna

Tsing’s insights on frontiers (Tsing, 2003, 2005). A resource, Li argues, does not possess an

inherent quality to function as a resource. It is produced as a resource through complex assembly

work of ‘heterogeneous elements including material substances, technologies, discourses and

practices’ that render something valuable at specific moments in time and place (Li, 2014b: 589).


Likewise, a resource frontier does not pre-exist but is made as a frontier through the works of

material and imaginative renderings (Tsing, 2003).

Both Li and Tsing emphasize a conjunctural approach to the formation of a resource

frontier. China’s coasts, I argue, are situated at a conjuncture of a highly particular political

economy of land and an emerging politics around sustainability as China’s next model of

economic and social development (see also Anderson, this volume). This conjuncture does not

merely frame post-millennial coastal land-reclamation practices. It shows where China is heading

against the backdrop of, on the one hand, the predicament of an urban-driven growth strategy

that the country has moved toward for over two decades and, on the other, the socioecological

crises that China’s modern development experiences have brought in turn. The following sections

of this chapter examines the way these processes render coastlines as new resource frontiers: at

once producing for land itself and spatializing sustainability onto reclaimed land.

Making a frontier entails ‘conjuring’ certain positive imaginaries about the frontier (Roy and

Ong, 2011; Li, 2014b) and rendering the place as backward, underdeveloped, messy, and even

empty (see Cons and Eilenberg, this volume). Gavin Bridge describes these dual frames of

frontier making as ‘bountiful emptiness’ (Bridge, 2001). A frontier is depicted as full of potentials

and opportunities while imagined as unmapped and unpopulated. Such dialectic formation of

frontiers has an effect of legitimizing interventions and exploitations. Yet, interventions often fail.

As Jason Cons and Michael Eilenberg note in the Introduction of this volume, frontiers often

become ‘terrains of failure, contestation, and conflict’. On China’s coasts, ‘imposing sustainability’

creates, if not outright failures, tensions, frictions, and anxiety that reveal the unsustainability of

the very interventions carried out as sustainable (Neumann, 1998).

Focusing on Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) and Tangshan Caofeidian, two adjacent

large-scale reclamation sites in the Bohai Bay region, I interrogate the controversies around this

particular vision of sustainability that have been projected onto the coasts. While I draw upon a

literature on China’s eco-cities that has critiqued China’s embrace of global discourses of

sustainability, my observations reveal that the processes of spatializing sustainability reach

beyond eco-city sites and spread along the entire coast. I rely on an assemblage approach to

develop a critical analysis of sustainability. In doing so, I highlight the paradox of China’s

sustainability agenda which allows interventions to erase existing biophysical and social realities

on the coast while writing new ecological futures upon the subsequent coastal ruins (Stoler, 2013;

see also Paprocki, this volume). Navigating through reclamation landscapes raises fundamental


questions about ‘sustainability’ of what, and for whom. Addressing such questions, this chapter

makes a case that China’s coasts have turned into a contested frontier of sustainability.

China’s Coasts as a Frontier Assemblage The nationwide reclamation fever that sprouted in the early 2000s had gone almost

unnoticed by the public for many years. It was only after the Tangshan government’s debt scandal

in 2013 regarding its inability to finance the Caofeidian reclamation project that major Chinese

media outlets began to pay attention to large-scale reclamation practices in the country.4 A year

later news spread globally with a Guardian report that delivered vivid visual presentations of

Caofeidian that by that time had turned into a ‘ghost city’ (see Woodworth, this volume).5 That

China’s coasts had not pre-existed as a major source of land and that coastal reclamation

practices sporadically but contemporarily became a prominent way to provision urban and

industrial land suggest what Bruce Braun called ‘the contingency of the present’ (Braun, 2002).

An assemblage, according to Braun, is a transitory moment where things do not pre-exist but

create a contingently and temporarily fixed state. China’s coasts have emerged through a frontier

assemblage of heterogeneous events, processes, and forces converging against the backdrop of

China’s developmental and environmental challenges. Among the multiple elements that

constitute this assemblage, I here elaborate two at work at the national level: a desire for land

and a desire for spatializing sustainability.

A Desire for Land Land is a peculiar commodity. Land is geographically fixed and as such is unable to be

removed. As Tania Li describes it, ‘you cannot roll it up and take it away’ (Li, 2014: 589). Likewise,

land does not reproduce. Land may be repackaged for the purpose of more intense and diverse

uses, but the sources for new land are strictly limited. Land in China has an extraordinary status.

Despite the fact that China has the world’s third largest land area as its territory, land is considered

one of the nation’s most critically scarce resources. In popular discourses, land scarcity is linked

to population increase in markedly Malthusian terms: through fears of shortages in food and

housing provision. For example, an often-invoked narrative says that the size of arable land per

capita in China is merely 25–41% of the global average.6 Land scarcity is narrativized to justify

interventions to protect agricultural land. Similarly, a need for housing to accommodate the

growing population justifies the desire to seek additional land.


These two types of land use (agriculture and housing) have been in intense conflict over

the past decades because of China’s rapid urbanization. During what You-Tien Hsing termed ‘the

great urban transformation’ (Hsing, 2010), the urban population rocketed – from 20% in 1978 to

more than 50% in 2012. The figure is expected to rise to 70% by 2030. In terms of physical space,

land designated as ‘urban’ expanded dramatically, at a rate even higher than the growth of urban

population (Development Research Center of the State Council and World Bank, 2014). As land

was mostly provisioned through rural-to-urban land conversion, rampant and forceful conversion

of agricultural land led to massive displacement of rural residents. A tense period of massive rural

demonstrations against urbanization in 1997 even forced the government to declare a one-year

moratorium on land use conversion (Cartier, 2001; O’Brien, 2008).

The coastal land-reclamation boom of the 2000s is primarily situated in this struggle

between urban and agricultural land. It is uncertain whether the new regulations on farmland

protection were driven by the government’s political fear of potential insurgencies by dissatisfied

farmers or by its concern about the decline in agricultural production due to unregulated land

grabbing. Nevertheless, the late 1990s and the early 2000s saw a rise of discourses invoking

potential food insecurity, which effectively legitimized the government’s hurried move and strict

enforcement of agricultural protection. The New Land Administration Law, set up in 1999,

designated a total of 1.2 million km2 of agricultural land as protected basic farmland across China

(Lin and Yi, 2011; Lai et al., 2014). The outcome was the creation of what is called the ‘red-line’:

a firm boundary where urban growth must stop before encroaching onto rural land.

The notion of land scarcity translated into stricter farmland protection policies hence set

up the stage for prompting coastal land reclamation as an alternative source of land. This in turn

became a major source of income for local governments. A study reports that up to 70% of local

governments’ revenues were estimated to come from land development in 2010; the figure is

around 45% as of 2014.7 With this imperative for profit-making from land development, local

governments frequently invoke the term ‘red-line’ when asked about their rationales for delving

into large-scale reclamation. ‘If you want to move the red-line, you must compensate hundreds of

thousands of yuan for the cost of farmland’, I was told in 2013 by a prefecture-level official in

charge of coastal reclamation.

But for what do they keep producing land? Today’s coastal reclamation fever is

distinguished from previous ones not only for its scale but for land use. Reclamation booms prior

to the 1990s were driven by the production of fish farms, salt paddies, and agricultural land. In

contrast, official statistics indicate that over 90% of the new land reclaimed since 2002 is


earmarked for ‘construction land’, i.e. for urban and industrial purposes.8 Given the scale of

postmillennial reclamation practices, this indicates that the desire for land is specifically about

what Myung-Rae Cho has called ‘construction as accumulation’ and, in particular, the spatial

expansion of urban development (Cho, 2006). In this sense, discourses of land scarcity that drive

reclamation are relative ones: the demand for urban land from reclaimed coastal spaces was a

reaction to the heightened institutional barrier to accessing agricultural land, while the underlying

cause of urbanization was never questioned.

A Desire for Spatializing Sustainability Circa the late-2000s, a new phenomenon began to emerge where coastal land

reclamation was increasingly labelled as an ‘ecological’ practice. In other words, reclamation

projects were increasingly reimagined as sound ‘eco’ projects that were good not only for growth,

but also for the environment. ‘Eco-’ labels flourish in reclamation sites today. It is not cities, but

‘eco-cities’ that are built on reclaimed land. New industrial zones are justified by their reduction of

greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution and their increased recycling functions for

realizing a circular economy (Zhang et al., 2011). Renewable energy infrastructure as well as the

engineered nature in the form of canals, wetlands, and green landscaping have become integral

to coastal land-reclamation projects.

This ‘environmentalization’ or ‘greening’ of coastal land reclamation is a key feature of the

state’s broader sustainability agenda (Chen, 2013; Anderson, this volume). This agenda seeks to

revamp the very configuration of society in order to secure ‘harmonious, balanced, and

sustainable development’. The agenda can be traced back to ‘eco-civilization’, a slogan

announced by Hu Jintao at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party in 2007. Julie Sze

notes that Hu’s speech was ‘the first time the Chinese Communist Party had highlighted ecology,

putting it explicitly on the Party’s agenda’ (Sze, 2015: 36). Since then, the Chinese state has

pursued this goal aggressively. China’s past two national five-year plans adopted various

mechanisms including green finance, an emission trading scheme, and investment in expanding

renewable energy infrastructure.9 While the question remains as to how many of these

mechanisms will be effectively enforced, an increasing number of commentators agree with Jane

Golley’s claim that ‘there is ample evidence to suggest this commitment is real’ (Golley, 2016: 7).

Golley argues that China’s capacity to bring changes has reached ‘an extent that green

supporters in advanced democratic countries can only dream about’ (2016: 7). China’s push for


sustainability is now envied and celebrated in various venues, as demonstrated by a recent World

Economic Forum video boasting that ‘China is now the world’s biggest producer of solar power’.10

‘Sustainability’ as a malleable, undemonstrated concept crucial to the

environmentalization of the Chinese state necessitates space to test its possibilities and to prove

its feasibility and efficacy (Chen et al., 2017). In China, new eco-cities have assumed that role.

Eco-cities are a globally emerging urban planning model designed to save energy and minimize

environmental impacts. Eco-cities have been enthusiastically embraced by the state as a solution

to the multi-faceted socioecological challenges emerging from decades of industrialization-driven

development (Caprotti, 2016). Moreover, eco-cities allow the Chinese state to continue to pursue

sustainability without giving up an urbanization-driven growth model. In effect, eco-cities are at

the centre of the national land development strategy. As Chien argues, eco-cities are ‘the third

round of large-scale transformation since the economic reform’ following the development zones

(kaifaqu) in the 1980s and college towns (daxuecheng) in the 1990s (Chien, 2013). These indicate

that eco-cities are themselves an assemblage formed at a historical conjuncture of the material

consequences of intense industrialization of the past, the ongoing urbanization-driven growth

strategy, and China’s emergent vision for a sustainable future.

Many authors have studied eco-cities constructed on reclaimed land, although they have

not focused on processes of reclamation per se (Chang and Sheppard, 2013; Joss, 2015; Sze,

2015; Caprotti, 2016). Yet the two processes are intricately entangled in ways that are beyond

the political economy of land that renders coasts an attractive source of land. The new state

agenda of sustainability is less tolerant about the massive scale of ecological destruction that

inevitably accompanies reclamation practices. Destruction needs to be justified by producing

something countervailingly desirable. Eco-cities fulfil such a gap. In other words, the making of a

sustainability frontier is essential for legitimizing the desire for land. This way, the desire for

spatializing the vision of sustainability and the desire for land intersect through reclamation on

China’s coasts.

A Contested Sustainability Frontier The Binhai New Area in the Tianjin municipality and Caofeidian in the prefecture-level

Tangshan City in Hebei are among the largest coastal reclamation sites in China. The story of the

two reclamation sites, despite their differential administrative status and reputation, illustrates

several characteristics shared by numerous other sites along China’s coasts. Specifically, they

both feature large-scale land development driven by the strong will of local governments, an often-


prolonged construction period due to financial constraints, and mixed industrial and urban

planning. Both include an eco-city plan which effectively ‘greenwashes’ the reclamation project


In the TBNA and Tangshan Caofeidian, local governments’ political motivations grounded

on the notion of ‘lagging behind’ prompted large-scale reclamation. At the regional level, there

was a widespread perception that the Jingjinji (Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei) metropolitan region had

been losing competition compared to the dazzling success of the Pearl River Delta region. At the

city level, the rapid growth of other provincial-level municipalities such as Beijing and Shanghai in

the post-reform era prompted the public sentiment that ‘Tianjin became an underdeveloped city,

lagging behind Beijing, her neighbor, during China’s 30 years of planned economy’ (Zhu and Sun,

2009: 195). Similarly, the Caofeidian project allegedly was propelled by the Tangshan

government’s jealousy of Tianjin’s relative success.

In this context, reclamation was part of broader development planning for boosting

economic growth in both sites. The TBNA is composed of old and new development areas,

including three major industrial zones (Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area,

Tianjin Port Free Trade Zone, and Tianjin Port), three administrative districts (Tanggu, Hangu,

and Dagang), and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City. About 307 km2 of coast was reclaimed as

new development over the past decade with more planned in the near future (Zhu et al., 2017).

Tangshan, on the other hand, envisioned its own development planning after it lost to Tianjin in

the national bid for the siting of the Sino-Singapore Eco-City. The city government largely relies

on coastal reclamation for land provision and on bank loans. The CFD, like the TBNA, is a

comprehensive land planning project including the ambitious Caofeidian International Eco-City

(150 km2). About 310 km2 of reclamation is planned; about 230 km2 has turned into land so far

(Wang et al., 2014; Liang et al., 2015).

But perhaps the key dynamic in assembling the coast as a frontier is the civil engineering

process of making land. As recent infrastructure studies demonstrate, large-scale civil

engineering practices not only bring transformative socioecological change but do so by

enhancing irreversibility in such a change (Graham, 2010; Carse, 2014; Harvey and Knox, 2015).

Land reclamation is a multi-stage process – necessitating building a seawall, drying the ground

inside the wall, filling in the ground with such materials as sand, mud, and construction waste,

and pounding and desalinating the elevated ground. The process of reclamation creates messy

and dusty landscapes and irreversibly buries marine life and habitats underground. For these

reasons, elsewhere in Asia, particularly in South Korea, coastal land-reclamation projects were


intensely opposed by environmentalists for this brutal materiality of land-making (Hahm and Kang,

2007; Park, 2007; Choi, 2014).

In the TBNA and Caofeidian, as is in many other sites in China, significant civil opposition

has not occurred for a variety of reasons. Yet, the dual tasks of frontier making – conjuring the

dream of a sustainable future and rendering the previous environment as undesirable – are still

ongoing. Apart from the various venues such as websites and government documents, visitor

centres seek to make the imagined future a tangible reality. The visitor centres of the Tianjin Sino-

Singapore Eco-City and the Caofeidian International Eco-City embody the desire for sustainability

with overwhelming representations of ‘green’ and ‘ecology’. For example, the Tianjin Eco-City

visitor centre welcomes visitors with a picture of egrets and lush wetlands covering an entire wall

of the main hall. The miniature planning model of the TBNA, not just the eco-city, is full of trees

and waterways. In contrast, the past landscape is narrated as a polluted wasteland. For example,

a series of images tells the tale of transforming a heavy-metal contaminated pond into a clean

waterfront. The visitor centres deliver a carefully purposed message that the grey construction

landscape outside the building is merely transitory and that a new blue and green future is will

soon become a reality. In doing so, they hide the destructive dimension of reclamation; instead,

reclamation is presented as a desirable practice that rescues nature from the existing status of

heavy pollution and even lets it prosper. In this way, the visitor centres display the transformation

of China’s sustainability dream into reality. In advancing this agenda, they encourage the visitor

to see past the actual scenes they see and instead envision a green and sustainable future (Figure


Increasingly, efforts to create a sustainability frontier on reclamation sites requires a

rewriting and memorialization of local histories, fishing traditions, and cultures. This produces an

ironic situation in which the fisher communities and marine ecologies that have been destroyed

through reclamation are remembered as those in need of preservation. For planners, they are

locally-specific assets for tourism, which is considered as a less-polluting and profitable eco-

industry’ squarely fit for a sustaina


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