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Spectacular post-colonial cities: markets, ideology and globalization in the making of Shanghai and Hong Kong

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(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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This dissertation investigates the history and political economy of two Chinese cities, Shanghai and Hong Kong, in the context of debates about globalization and ‘global cities.’ My inquiry focuses on the interwoven relationships between colonization, global capitalism, ideology, and the changing nature and objectives of national and local governments. On the stage of globalization, cities have become the sites of competition for the concentration of flexible global investment money, new technologies, media and cultural industries, in order to enhance their wealth and their status in the world. Becoming a global city is now a prized goal for many cities around the world, including Shanghai and Hong Kong. Since the 1980s this has led to unprecedented global inter-urban competition. Cities not only have capitalized on their traditional roles as financial and manufacturing centers, but many have also adopted a strategy geared toward the ‘mobilization of spectacle’ to boost their global status. My work illustrates the ways in which Shanghai and Hong Kong, as two self-defined global cities, are engulfed by the formidable force of inter-urban competition in the Asia-Pacific Rim. Much of the analysis focuses on conditions arising from China's broader ideological and political move toward neo-liberalism. The Chinese government has actively promoted Shanghai into the hierarchy of the global urban order by launching a mega urban project, the Pudong Lujiazui New Area, by staging events, such as the Global Fortune Forum, and by massively rebuilding the city's skyline. Similar initiatives in Hong Kong include the creation of Hong Kong Disneyland. In both cases, these initiatives reflect a move toward a more ‘entrepreneurial’ urban culture. I argue, however, that such initiatives are more than a simple reflection of broader global political economic dynamics. Rather, the trajectories followed by both cities require an understanding of their colonial past. In the past, these cities were shaped by the spectacle of imperial capitalism. Today, they are willing participants in embracing forms of globalization that continue to be heavily influenced by the West. I conclude that both cities’ current obsession with becoming global cities entails a complex and often contradictory post-colonial complex.
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