The East Is Orange

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The New York Times' Elisabeth Rosenthal visits Orange County, China:

There is Sun City, a half-built gated community with echoes of the desert. Then the tidy homes of Orange County come into view. Finally, you drive through a stone portal, past advertisements showing men fly-fishing in cowboy hats, pulling up before the impressive mansions of Watermark-Longbeach, the epicenter of faux L.A. in China.

"I liked it immediately—it is just like a house in California," exulted Nasha Wei, a former army doctor turned businesswoman, sitting on a white suede banquette in the four-bedroom home in Orange County (China) she moved into this year.

Bits of American geography are popping up all over Beijing, the latest fashion in real estate marketing and sales. Soho, Central Park, Palm Springs and Manhattan Gardens are among recent developments….In many instances, the name is just an American location tacked on to typical upmarket Chinese apartments. But at Orange County and Longbeach, developers have promised clients the real deal—so long as they can afford the minimum half million-dollar price tag….

So far, Orange County is a suburb without suburbia, surrounded by villages and fields. But that is sure to change. It is less than 10 miles from the site of the 2008 Olympic Games, and the area is scheduled for rapid development. Already, two newly completed six-lane superhighways that run nearby are giving it more of that L.A. feel, with just one difference: there is no traffic—yet.

The story is three years old, but it was linked on bOING bOING today, along with some photos, so I figure it's fair game. A couple decades ago, Richard Louv described America's high-priced private communities as "capitalist communes." It's a sign of the times that they're now taking root in nominally communist China.

Elsewhere in Reason: Robert Nelson considered the future of the private city in our April issue. I looked at the history of suburban utopianism in the January 2003 Reason (and posted a follow-up on my personal blog). Sam Staley reviewed some more suburban history in 2001. And I wrote a brief item about the proprietary communities of Dubai last year.

NEXT: Han Shoots First - Again!

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  1. China: nominally Communist, operatively fascist

  2. Commies building burbclaves?

    Joe’s gonna freak. 🙂

  3. Bits of American geography are popping up all over Beijing, the latest fashion in real estate marketing and sales. Soho, Central Park, Palm Springs and Manhattan Gardens are among recent developments….

    great idea, they can market their apocalypse-resembling drab industrial areas as East St. Louis Estates.

  4. As I was growing up in Margate, going to school in New Brunswick, then working in New York, I was always grateful that my country didn’t have use secondhand place names for its cities.

  5. Tim: naughty 🙂

    didn’t part of the sleeper cell plot in “Telefon” have to do with commie spies living in repicas of american small towns?

    oh – are the commies following good urban planning methodology? BECAUSE IF THEY DON’T THEY WILL GET BOILS ON THEIR BUTTOX. BOILS!!!! HOW CAN’T YOU PEOPLE SEE THAT???????

  6. So is this The Village from The Prisoner?

  7. What strikes me as interesting is how compatible “capitalist communes” are with anti-liberty regimes.

    Guess it’s why I’m an anti-capitalist free-marketer.

    Our “capitalist communes” have always seemed to require a lack of liberty that is proving essential in governing Capitalist China.

    Of course, that’s why I can’t call myself a libertarian anymore. I think Personal Liberties are as essential as Poperty Liberties.

    And as I’ve learned from CATO, that’s just crazy talk.

  8. But, Tim, those places got there names because some folks were nostalgic for the old country.

    I mean, it’s not like a bunch of New Jersey indians went to England and loved the layout of Newark-on-Trent so much that they came home and duplicated it on the banks of the Passaic.

  9. China: nominally Communist, operatively fascist
    Give ’em another generation or so and the Chinese will rule the world – though perhaps not from China. They rock. (Anyone who’s heard the Chinese version of “Dazed and Confused” will probably disagree).

  10. I mention The Prisoner, then learn that they are remaking it.
    http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/display.cgi?id=23219

  11. They’ll just keep on lookin to the west…
    Whoa-OH China Grove

  12. It’s sad to see China throwing away its past and replacing it with the same crap that befouls the American landscape. In addition to these enclaves for the well-connected (nobody gets rich in China without knowing the right (Party) people), whole sections of central cities are being levelled and replaced with shiny new towers. The new towers don’t even have sidewalks – just parking lots facing the street. You guys better hope for a solution to the oil problem pretty soon, cos the Chinese are building like there’s no tomorrow – and everything they build looks like LA.

  13. Of course, that’s why I can’t call myself a libertarian anymore. I think Personal Liberties are as essential as Poperty Liberties.

    All personal liberties are property liberties. The former derive from the latter. Read Murry Rothbard.

  14. Of course, I meant “Murry Rothbard” as in “Murray Rothbard.”

  15. Johnny: there are actually “anti-capitalist free-market” types that still call themselves libertarians. Brad Spangler comes to mind…

    There’s been a credible arguement for the longest that the conditions we currently call “capitalism” aren’t born of a free-market but of years — centuries — of state force controlled by elite types in opposition to a free-market, considering actual competition to be dangerous to their inflated status. I personally agree with this interpretation myself in fact, having learned over the years just how far back the current process of narrow interests using the State to steal from the rest of the population stretches to. Calling capitalism as we know it a “free-market” is an insult to the term, as it is and has been rare for the champions of capital to both 1) get to their position through absolutely no violence & 2) allow the same path for everyone else.

    In short, most “capitalists” as we would define them these days would not like a true market order. There is no inherent contradiction to libertarianism in pointing this out.

  16. I mean, it’s not like a bunch of New Jersey indians went to England and loved the layout of Newark-on-Trent so much that they came home and duplicated it on the banks of the Passaic.

    But look at any of America’s modern high-end suburbs and that’s exactly what’s going on. They have names straight out of bucolic Britan. I’m amazed I haven’t seen one called “The Shire” yet.

    And it’s not new. All those crazy sounding towns along the Main Line west of Philadelphia? Bryn Mawr? Bala Cynwd? Named by the Pennsylvania Railroad after towns in Wales.

  17. Bryn Mawr? Bala Cynwd?

    I have always understood that these were named by Welsh settlers nostalgic for the old country.

    Just as my ancestor John Bartram lived outside Darby (now absorbed by Phillie) named after Derby (pronounced Darby) in England which had been the home of his grandfather.

    Remember none of us are that much removed from the old country (whatever it is) that we can’t muster up a little wistful longing for that native soil.

    The Chinese seem to have simply adopted this ersatz American lifestyle having just seen it and liked it.

  18. I have always understood that these were named by Welsh settlers nostalgic for the old country.

    Sorry, but you’ve been misled:

    “When the Pennsylvania [Railroad] began developing the area as an elite suburb, it found many of the existing place names too plebian for its aristocratic plans.”

    From here. There was some Welsh history there, but the names are almost all creations of the railroad.

  19. There was some Welsh history there, but the names are almost all creations of the railroad.

    Aha. Thankyou. Very interesting.

  20. Copycats. The most expensive neighborhood in every major Filipino city is “Beverly Hills”.

  21. China: nominally Communist, operatively fascist

    Comment by: Dr. Kenneth Noisewater at May 4, 2006 11:15 AM

    Just two sides of the same coin, and if one wishes to continue that theme, the coin is funny-money.

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