Transnational urbanism interrupted: A Chinese developer’s attempts to secure approval to build the ‘New York of Africa’ at Modderfontein, Johannesburg

Richard Ballard, Philip Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article examines how developers attempt to move into new settings, and how such attempts sometimes fail. Unlike long-standing developers, who are in various ways ‘embedded’ (Henneberry and Parris, 2013), newcomers have to overcome their lack of familiarity with the context of their intended project. Using the case of a proposed megaproject at Modderfontein in Johannesburg, we examine how a Chinese developer worked to articulate with the Johannesburg planning environment. It produced an extensive network by deploying its staff to Johannesburg, hiring local professional staff, winning the favour of provincial politicians and hiring consultants in the UK in order to help close a deal with planners responsible for approval. Sophisticated efforts to pitch the project to municipal planners using win-win narratives failed to satisfy the planners’ material concerns that the project would break up urban space, would be financially exclusionary and could undermine economies elsewhere in the city. The developer ultimately withdrew as a result of delays in approval combined with a financial crisis it faced in its home context. The article considers the interplay between the transnational networks that emerge around megaprojects; the communicative space of project negotiations that is characterised by different cultures of planning; and the political economic context that allows – or interrupts – transnational development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-402
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Volume52
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • China
  • Developers
  • Johannesburg
  • planning approval
  • transnational urbanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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