E02 // C-NET

>> CHAPTER 1: Mapping and Context
>> CHAPTER 2: In Search for an Alternative Model
>> CHAPTER 3: Ingredients for an Alternative Model >> [ coming next ]
>> CHAPTER 4: A Decentralised, Self-Organised, Production Model
>> CHAPTER 5: The Components
>> CHAPTER 6: The Productive Villages

Chapter 1:
Mapping and Context

The starting point of this project was a study on the statistical information from China’s sixth national population census.  A series of exercises were conducted to create geographic mappings of the data. The approach of studying a group of people by reducing them to numeric data may appear detached and unsympathetic at first glance.  However, quantitative methods may provide distinct insights into the group that may not be readily apparent through qualitative studies alone, and therefore shall not be dismissed.

Data from Chinese’s Sixth National Population Census

China operates under a ‘hukou’ policy, which is a household registration system.  Each individua`l is officially registered in the record by their name, gender, date of birth, and place of birth.  Their right of employment and land-purchase as well as access to social benefits are tied to their city and province of birth.  People who reside outside the city and province of birth are considered as ‘migrants’.  

A map of migrated population and map of migrant population highlights a substantial influx of people from the inner provinces towards seven coastal provinces.  The underlying cause is made obvious by a map of factories by provinces.  The migrant population predominantly comprises individuals from rural villages in the inner provinces who relocate to the seven coastal provinces in search of job opportunities.   

During the time of the study, the economic landscape within China was largely structured by the political system which identified certain cities or regions as “Special Economic Zones”.  A major economic output was from manufacturing with significant foreign investment.  Foreign investors predominantly established their manufacturing plants within the designated SEZs, leading to the concentration of manufacturing activities in these zones.  With factories being the primary source of employment for trans-provincial migrants, the SEZs became destinations for migrants seeking job opportunities. 

Migrants quening up at a train station for a ticket home for Chinese New Year

Migrants usually live a very transient life in the city, moving from job to job.

This mass migration phenomenon not only led to social and environmental issues within the manufacturing cities 1, but also created a void in the inner provinces.

Due to the high cost of living in the city and the fact that the migrants would only be entitled to very limited social support and benefits outside their place of residence (place of birth), only physically capable adults from the rural area would undertake this journey to seek employment in the urban areas, leaving behind the elderly and children in their home provinces.  In many cases, the responsibility of raising and caring for the children falls upon their grandparents or other elderly relatives, with the parents only able to visit once a year during the Chinese New Year.  This segment of the population left behind in the rural area is commonly referred to as the ‘386199’ troop, with ‘38’ representing the female population, ‘61’ representing the children, and ‘99’ representing the elderly. 

Photo of a family in a rural village. Empty chairs representing family members working in the city.

As of 2010, the population of migrant workers in China reached approximately 560 million individuals.  Within this population, the ‘386199’ troop accounted for an estimated 87 million people, with around 50 million of them being children.  Collectively, the mass migration situation affected up to 48% of the population, making it one of the most significant social and demographic phenomena in the country.  

This project delves into potential urban or architectural responses to address this social-geographical problem.

NEXT >> CHAPTER 2: In Search for an Alternative Model