Does the rise of pseudo-public spaces lead to the ‘end of public space’ in large Chinese cities? Evidence from Shanghai and Chongqing

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Journal Article
Urban Design International, 2018, 23 (3), pp. 215 - 235
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© 2018, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature. Open spaces in shopping malls and commercial complexes are publicly accessible and resemble public spaces, but they are designed and managed for seeking profit and serving paying customers. They are pseudo-public spaces. The emergence of pseudo-public spaces has drawn great scholarly attention, and, in the West, some critical scholars argue it leads to the ‘end of public space’. When it comes to China, empirical studies on the rise of pseudo-public spaces and their consequences in this particular context can hardly be found in the existing literature. However, China is experiencing a new form of urbanism which is meaningfully different from the Western ones. Drawing on case studies in two Chinese cities, this paper discusses how pseudo-public spaces rise in China, assesses to what degrees Chinese pseudo-public spaces are public and analyses how the rise of pseudo-public spaces impacts the publicness of Chinese urban space. The findings suggest that, although pseudo-public spaces are generally less public than traditional public spaces in China, the rise of these spaces does not necessarily lead to the ‘end of public space’ in the country. Additional studies are required to determine the political–economic consequences of the resulting property relations.
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