Back in China – living in a gated community – a model for car free development or evil middle class land grab?

I’m back in the land of my daughter’s birth, we’ve set up home in China, and it is some home.

Our ground floor flat with small garden, is itself in a much larger garden, a plush tropical paradise of a garden, teeming with life. Bugs and mosquitoes of course, but also butterflies, birds, and bats at night, while the lake lapping on the shore of the more expensive properties is full of carp. (No, the lake is not full of crap but carp, a brightly coloured fish).

Children’s playgrounds are dotted throughout this huge development, and it is of course perfect for raising children. Outside our house is a large carfree area, perhaps better described as a park, but even the roads around the community are relatively low car and slow car, with 15kmph speed limits throughout.

Sitting at the centre of the development is the ‘Clubhouse’ where one can sit on the artificial beach by the pool, play ten pin bowling, snooker, table tennis or eat western food.

All of this is of course protected by our local security forces and we are fenced in, or is it that the rest of the world is fenced out?

I used to hate gated communities, I remember arriving in The Philippines and wandering around the dirty roads of the suburbs of Manila and sneering at the rich pampered elites living behind their gates with manicured lawns.

Now I have lived in two myself, as they are the only places that it seems the car does not dominate. Where you can let a two year old run freely without fearing for him interrupting the never-ending flows of cars and trucks.

I’m not living here to shut out the poor, I myself identify more closely with the poor than the greedy, I simply want to live somewhere without motorised traffic dominating at least two of my senses at all times.

So what does this tell us, providing low car or car free village like life is seen as something for the privileged middle classes, but does it have to be like that, and is it really exactly like that?

The purpose of the gate in my mind is to keep out the fast moving cars, not the people, if anything the problem here is that there are no street vendors and no street life.

Perhaps therefore we should be pushing for the low and slow car residential zones thoughout the city, we don’t need gates of fences, we just need better planning. I would move into a non-gated low car development like a flash.

Car free gate free living is what I dream about.


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