Accepted paper:

Urban Redevelopment in the Context of Chungking Mansions

Author:

Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong, is a world hub of developing-world globalization located on some of the most expensive real estate on earth. How does this building survive? Will it be torn down to become a new shopping mall, or will it become “a Disneyland of the developing world”?

Paper long abstract:

Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong, is a world hub of developing-world globalization. It is where African and South Asian traders buy, under the radar of the law, cheap China-made phones, clothing, and computers, to carry back to their home countries. Chungking Mansions is in the heart of Hong Kong's tourist district, located on some of the most expensive real estate on earth. Why does this building, long reputed to be a center of crime, still exist? Two reasons are these: 1) the building has 920 owners, many of whom cannot easily be found, and 2) the building's many business and guesthouse owners make much profit, not because of high prices but because of a high volume of customers. Thus they have long preferred the building to stay as it is—a crash pad for developed-world backpackers in the 1980s and a haven for developing-world traders today. The incorporated owners have lately put in many improvements, whether to entice or fend off developers. But the most important factor in the building's survival may be that Chungking Mansions is now becoming fashionable. It still may be torn down to become one more shopping mall. But ironically, the building seems less likely to be demolished than to become a sort of "Disneyland of the developing world," for tourists and locals. This may be distasteful to anthropologists, but might be a socially responsible outcome, making the best of an untenable situation.

panel PE19
Urban development, business operation and social responsibility (Social Responsibility) (IUAES Commission on Enterprise Anthropology)