Julie Sze‘s new book opens by bringing readers into the wetlands of Dongtan, introducing us to an ambitious but unrealized project to create the “world’s first great eco-city.” Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis (University of California Press, 2015) considers Dongtan, the Chongming Island eco-development, suburban real estate developments, and other fantasies of wild and urban lives to explore the nature of eco-desire in contemporary China. Sze suggests that three factors undergird Chinese eco-desire: a technocratic faith in engineering, a reliance on authoritarian political structures to enable environmental improvements, and a discourse of “ecological harmony” between man and nature. The chapters of Fantasy Islands trace these phenomena as they have manifest in the context of the 2008 Olympics, the opening of a Tunnel-Bridge Expressway in 2010, the planning of an eco-city, the marketing of “Thames Town” and other European-oriented novelty towns on the outskirts of Shanghai, and the 2010 World Expo. It’s a fascinating story for readers interested in modern China, urban history, and global studies of ecology and the environment!
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