The rapid urbanisation, by all means, can be considered to be one of the key characteristics of present Chinese society. As a social and cultural force, the process of urbanisation has transformed the landscapes, social structure and daily culture in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region – the northern borderland of the People’s Republic of China. The three selected cities of the visual project are all important to Inner Mongolia, not simply because they contribute more than a half of total industrial output of the region, but also because they generate an ‘Inner Mongolia model’ of urban development. Hohhot is the capital city of Inner Mongolia, which lies in the central part of the region. As the central city, Hohhot has expanded its urban area since the 1990s through building new landmarks in both the city centre and other parts of the city. Ordos is a prefecture-level city lying in the west to Hohhot, which is famous for its lavish urbanisation project – many residential and business buildings were built within short terms but left empty for long terms. Baotou locates between Hohhot and Ordos, which is the biggest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. Because of the recent transition in economic development from resource-dependent one into a more green and sustainable one, the city of Baotou began to alter its focus on mine industry to urban reconstruction which attracts more financial investments. The dramatic urbanisation process in Inner Mongolia has transformed it from an industrial area into a post-industrial one through rapid real estate investment. The new-build business and residential skyscrapers represent local people’s aspiration of a modern and ideal homeland. Living with this urbanisation process, local residents’ dwelling, living/being, experiencing the living environment – the city – interacts with their imagination/understanding of modernisation and ideal lifestyle and wider society which call for further economic, social and urban development. The urbanising Inner Mongolia, in this sense, is an inevitable process in the developing China.
Dr CHEN LIU Researcher at University of Sheffield, UK