Cover: The Shenzhen Experiment: The Story of China’s Instant City, from Harvard University PressCover: The Shenzhen Experiment in HARDCOVER

The Shenzhen Experiment

The Story of China’s Instant City

Product Details


$35.00 • £30.95 • €31.95

ISBN 9780674975286

Publication Date: 01/07/2020


384 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

32 color photos, 12 color maps


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A major contribution to understanding a fascinating city.—Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Wall Street Journal

An actual history, as opposed to the usual blah-blah-blah you find in so many China books. The author has a background in architecture and urban planning, and stresses the import of the Pearl River Delta before Deng’s reforms (Shenzhen wasn’t just a run-down fishing village), decentralization in Chinese reforms, and fits and starts in the city’s post-reform history. Anyone who reads books on China should consider this one.—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

Tell[s] the story from the ground up of Shenzhen, the southern city just across the border from Hong Kong that symbolizes like no other China’s economic success… Du aims to break through the clichés that have dominated so many accounts of Shenzhen… By rooting her story in the ‘countless individuals’ who defined the city, she argues that Shenzhen is much more than a top-down exercise in building a modern metropolis.Financial Times

Equally instructive and highly readable… Du aims to dispel a powerful, multilayered myth at the heart of most ‘rise of China’ narratives on the recent past… Du effectively demonstrates that Shenzhen’s stunning development is not simply the result of state-led SEZ policies but has been facilitated by specific local conditions and a multitude of different actors over a long period.—Susanne Stein, Technology and Culture

Explores the blurry history of the city, beginning with its farmers and oyster fishermen… An important story for architects and planners everywhere facing the excitement as well as perils of rapid urbanization and industrialization.Architect’s Newspaper

This is a remarkable book on a remarkable subject… Will delight both a general audience curious about China’s rise, and China Hands looking for greater depth and insights into how Shenzhen fits into (and illuminates) a bigger story of modern political, economic, and social development.—George Baily, Asian Affairs

As urban planner Juan Du shows in this deep dive of a history, the ‘instant city’ narrative is a myth. Sweeping aside slick origin stories, Du reveals a reality in which Shenzhen’s prosperity is driven by oyster fishers, vibrant night markets and the aspirations of millions, not just by the policymakers of Beijing.Nature

Endeavors to move beyond the caricature of Shenzhen as a historyless tabula rasa… The area which would become ‘Shenzhen’ was a well-populated and culturally rich landscape, and its history is here outlined in detail… Provides a nuanced and detailed historical grounding, drawing on a diverse range of sources and primary research. Blending the personal and the historical, it is an outstanding primer on the fascinating fortunes of a city which will only grow in national and global significance over the course of the next decade.—Jonathan Chatwin, Asian Review of Books

Du offers straight, rich, descriptive planning history, whose mastery of Chinese sources and multilayered development makes it an invaluable resource for general use by students and scholars… An authoritative study… Anchored at human scale by the stories of oysters or nail houses, yet adroitly explaining policy debates and innovations on a national scale, this book deserves a wide readership and engagement.—Gary W. McDonogh, City & Society

Shenzhen, the fastest growing city on earth, has been globally acknowledged as the test tube for modern China. In The Shenzhen Experiment, Juan Du deftly uncovers the secrets of the city famous for its unprecedented economic development and social mobility.—Ole Bouman, Founding Director of Design Society, Shenzhen

A rich history of China’s famous ‘instant city,’ which may not be so instant after all. Juan Du takes us on an informative and unexpected journey through a major metropolis.—Yung Ho Chang, Principal of Atelier FCJZ, Beijing

In stark contrast to conventional, flattened accounts of this vast Chinese city, Juan Du has given us an architect’s magical encounter with a place that we cannot quite see with our eyes, but can experience in fragments. I love this account of Shenzhen.—Saskia Sassen, author of Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

This remarkable exploration of modern China reveals the humanity hidden in the shadows of international finance and globalized architecture. It is the extraordinary story of ordinary lives surviving and thriving in one of China’s most dynamic cities.—Austin Williams, author of China’s Urban Revolution and New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future

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