Narrative I – Tanggu: A coastal land of potentials [Proposition of Tanggu in 1986 Tianjin Urban Planning Project]

Tianjin experienced a series of events that hindered new development until Reform and Opening-up. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 in China, Urban planning was seen as a product of capitalism and people held a belief that it expanded the urban and rural disparity. They also accused urban planning was a tool of suppression and control of citizen. Therefore, the overall master planning for Tianjin was staggered while only some smaller scale of infrastructure planning was made. In 1974, Tianjin’s Office for Urban Master Planning was established for designing and editing the overall plan for the whole municipal. However, the 1976 Tangshan earthquake once again delayed the planning process for Tianjin and limited the government’s capacity and ability to initiate new urban development in the city. Until the China economic reforms led by Deng Xiaoping, the needs to rapidly develop cities coupled with the reconstruction process in Tianjin accelerated the urban planning process of Tianjin city, developing a comprehensive plan in accordance to the State’s guidance and economic reforms policies. 

1986 Tianjin Urban Planning Project

1986 Tianjin Urban Planning Project is the first comprehensive urban plan approved and legalised by the State Council. The proposed plan formed a multi-level urban system, consisting of the Central District, Binhai Area (Tanggu, Hanggu, and Dagong), satellite towns and county towns. The master plan showed two development centres located along the Haihe River: the existing inland Central District which is to be redeveloped, and a new centre – Binhai Area as the industrial development moves eastward to the coastal region. While satellite towns and county towns are planned in coordination with the centre for smaller-scale development. 

This hierarchical urban system of different scales of development for the urban settlements is rationalised by promoting the economic development of both urban and rural area. Tianjin city master planning before 1978 focused on Central District. Issues of urban problems such as overcrowded population have occurred. The 1986 Urban master plan proposed to control the size of the Central District and decentralised the industry by relocation. By developing Binhai Area and suburban satellite towns, the population can disperse these regions. A clear hierarchy is formed: Central District is defined as the locus of business, research, education and politics; Binhai Area and the satellite towns are destinations for industrial relocations. County towns comprised the lowest tier to provide local services. 

The development of Binhai Area is at the same time a political move that reflected the central state’s aspirations in the wake of Reform and Opening-up. In Deng Xiaoping’s ambition for economic reforms, Tianjin was designated as one of the fourteen coastal cities to open up in 1984 to facilitate foreign trade and investment. In these coastal cities, Economic and Technological Development Zones were set up to develop knowledge-intensive and technology-intensive industries, enjoying some special preferential policies and measures of Special Economic Zones. In Tianjin, the Tianjin Economic and Development Area (TEDA) was located in Tanggu Binhai Area. While planners and government officials recognized that the Tanggu port has not been exploited fully in early planning, the benefit of the geographical location of Tanggu right next to the Bohai Bay allowed international connections, building Tianjin as one of the Northern Industrial centres. Therefore, Tanggu constitutes a major part in the 1986 Master Plan, bringing international trade and exposure to the Central District.





天津市城市規劃志編纂委員會. 天津市城市規劃志. 天津市地方志叢書. 天津: 天津科學技朮出版社, 1994.


2 Comments on “Narrative I – Tanggu: A coastal land of potentials [Proposition of Tanggu in 1986 Tianjin Urban Planning Project]

  1. I am quite intrigued and curious that is there any political reason behind the urban planning methodology of decentralisation? For example, would it be easier for the China government to control the people easily?

  2. After reading your narrative I’m actually quite surprised by how people would perceive urban planning as a tool for suppression and control of citizens as a result hinder its urban development because in comparison to the urban transformation being made in Beijing during the 1950s to 60s its people welcome the idea of change nor did the government allow citizens hinder them on making developments. So I’m wondering other than its people accusing urban planning is an act of suppression and control I’m curious to know if during these moment are there any discourse or debates going on between the government and its citizens ? or with other parties such as with its planners or architects ?

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