Global Change and China's Clusters: The Restructuring of Guangzhou's Textile District

Economic globalization has increasingly exposed nations regions, and cities to strong local competition and inter-city rivalry. This is also the case in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) of South China. As a highly dynamic growing mega-urban region, it has a longstanding reputation as China's economic powerhouse and as the "factory of the world". Once a pioneering area of market economy reforms, the PRD nowadays faces fierce competition with other major metropolitan areas such as Beijing-Hebei-Metropolis and the Yangtze Delta Region, including Shanghai. This calls for constant adaptation of urban development strategies, which nowadays progressively aim at economic restructuring from labor-intensive manufacturing towards knowledge-intensive and service-oriented industries. The ascent along the value chain is particularly apparent within economic clusters, which are a long-established feature of China's local economy. However, despite the restructuring of the economy, there is still scope for an "upgrading" of existing clusters even when they seem to represent low value-added economic sectors. The Zhongda textile cluster in Guangzhou is a fascinating showcase example for this phenomenon. Not only is the textile manufacturing and trading sector re-establishing its role in the city, but it has even proven possible to conduct the restructuring process in suit in a densely-populated and completely built-up area. This paper will focus on the restructuring process as it took place over time in both economic and spatial terms. In the process, it will also reveal how global and local forces interplay in shaping the physical as well as the economic re-development of this cluster.


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About the Authors:

Friederike Schröder is a Research Associate and PhD student at the Department of Economic Geography, University of Hamburg. She is currently working within the research project "Governance over Time", funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of the Priority Program 1233 "Mega cities-Mega challenge - Informal Dynamics of Global Change".

Dr. Michael Waibel is the project leader of the research project "Governance over Time" based at the Department of Economic Geography of the University of Hamburg.

Prof. Dr. Uwe Altrock is the project leader of the research project "Governability, Borders and Citizenship", which is also part of the Priority Program 1233. He is the chair of the Department of Urban Regeneration at the University of Kassel.