The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number One — Zhuhai City, China, Brock Erdahl
By Brock Erdahl
Throughout the world, China is most commonly associated with a small handful of megalopolises, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. While the importance of these cities is undeniable, an exclusive focus on them provides an incomplete picture of the country as a whole. For example, China, which is home to around twenty percent of the world’s total population, has many other extremely large cities that few outside of it are familiar with. To be more precise, there are currently about 170 cities in the country with a population above one million people. Zhuhai, the city where I have lived, worked, and studied for the last year and plan to continue doing so for another, is one of them. It is located in southern China in a region generally referred to as the Pearl River Delta, which is not only one of the most densely populated places in the world but also a primary driver of China’s recent economic growth. Believe it or not, with a population of one and a half million people, Zhuhai is considered tiny by Chinese standards. For all that the city lacks in terms of global name recognition and relative national population, however, there are a variety of reasons why it is an interesting place to visit and learn about. Here are a just few of these reasons:
1. Zhuhai City
Perhaps no country has experienced as many significant changes over the last thirty odd years as China. In 1976, the year that the country’s first communist leader Mao Zedong died, China was one of the poorest countries in the world. Today, however, it has the world’s second largest economy. A set of policies collectively known as Reform and Opening-Up helped to initiate this rise in global economic ranking. As one of the four original Special Economic Zones (SEZs) set up by Deng Xiaoping, China’s second communist leader, in the early 1980s, Zhuhai has been at the forefront of China’s socio-economic transformation from the very beginning. For much of its history, Zhuhai was a sleepy fishing village. Yet, since it became a SEZ, the city has changed considerably. People from all over China moved here to find the jobs produced by its thriving economy and new buildings, roads, and infrastructure soon followed. Zhuhai is now home to a wide array of restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, amusement parks, golf courses, and gated communities.
The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.
Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.
Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013
(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 7, Fall, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.