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Shocked, but not shocked; China’s suburban development

Popularity 7Viewed 3284 times 2014-4-28 15:28 |System category:Others| suburban, China, tonglu, hangzhou

As mentioned previously in my blog “Take a Deep Breath”, my university program arranged a two day field trip to see China’s “countryside” which included a trip to Tong Lu County. I have never heard of Tong Lu and initially, I was excited for a change of scenery contrary to Shanghai’s metropolis environment. I have only been to China’s major cities and have never quite ventured out far into counties or villages. Filled with naïve thoughts of peasants, farmers and quaint little streets, I arrived in Tong Lu and my eyeballs nearly fell out.

A bit about Tong Lu

Tong Lu County is under administration of the Hangzhou city and has an area of 1,780 square kilometers with 400,700 household registered members. Since 2009, the transformation and development of the city began to increase dramatically. Industries such as manufacturing, food and materials, construction and agriculture began to flourish at prosperous rates. In 2009, the county’s GDP reached 17.156 billion Yuan (Hangzhou municipal government, n.d).

Massive buildings

When our tour bus neared the city, we were presented with impressive views of new, tall and remarkable commercial buildings; some of these buildings processed dramatic modern architectural designs. We then pulled into a beautiful five star hotel that was comparable to hotels in Las Vegas (minus the casinos and the shops). This was our view of the city from the 17th floor:

View of the city from the 17th floor of our five star hotel

Unoccupied Apartments

The most prominent observation involved multitudinous amounts of unoccupied condominium residences and neighborhoods. Some of them still under construction, some of them finished but unoccupied. Furthermore, advertisements or any sort of marketing for the residences were not very evident, which made it seems a bit like an odd ghost town that consisted of new buildings.

On the contrary…

In spite of this “big city” façade Tong Lu seems to convey, the city centre unmistakably has a “small town” feel. The traffic isn’t as crazy, there are considerably less people on the street, the people seem to be friendlier, less busy and have more times on their hands. I was told by my tour guide that people from Shanghai make that 2 and a bit hour drive down to Tong Lu to get away from the big city hustle and bustle.


In conclusion, I guess the reason why I would say that I felt “shocked but not shocked,” is because subconsciously, I have a general idea of China’s booming economy and immense development. However, I would have never imagined that the development would be so extensive. I am so grateful to have the chance to experience this; witnessing something like this opens up your eyes and really gets you thinking…  



Hangzhou municipal government. (n.d). “Tonglu County”. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (6 comments)

Reply Report 财神 2014-4-28 20:23
oh, this photo looks same to my flat.    
Reply Report voice_cd 2014-4-29 09:50
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-29 10:02
Ghost towns are becoming an Urban Legend!    from my article on China's infrastructure you'll see that I believe that these towns will ultimately be needed but are a bit ahead of their time. The continuing urbanization of China is a big topic! I will return to it.
Reply Report austinong 2014-4-30 11:13
there's also the issue of local governments and central governments lack of coordinated policies and implementation.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-30 12:29
austinong: there's also the issue of local governments and central governments lack of coordinated policies and implementation.
In fact local governments actually compete with each other!
Reply Report ★K★ 2014-4-30 19:05
Great change's been taking place for every single cornor of china that we are positive,in the process of development,there might exists some kind of flaws or disputes or dissatisfactions whatsoever though,we should build the confidence proceeding toward the dream of china

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Jessica is a Chinese language student and has been staying in Shanghai since February 2014.


Recent comments

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