Multicultural Planning and Local Government in Vancouver

I have become interested in how local governments in the Vancouver region have taken responsibility for including non-mainstream populations in the preparation and amendment of local plans as well as local social services. This project examines the changing composition of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods and the roles that these play in the mutual adjustment processes of immigrants. Themes include newcomer residential concentration and the role of multicultural planning in addressing neighbourhood-scale conflict. Earlier studies, together with colleague Tom Hutton (SCARP, UBC) and Michael Goldberg (Sauder Business School, UBC) provided a base-line survey of services provided to non-English speaking populations by the 21 local governments that make up the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now called Metro Vancouver), and examined the importance of migration from Hong Kong in shaping Vancouver’s suburban areas. Recent research, funded by RIIM (Research into Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis – now called Metropolis British Columbia) focuses on examining the planning procedures taken by the City of Richmond BC when faced with local opposition by the resident Chinese community to the opening of a ` group home’ in 2002. The hypothesis is that local governments are able to take leadership in mediating between various local communities in land use planning decisions. Indeed, I argue that the City of Richmond took sensitive and appropriate action to diffuse the original conflict over the siting of a Group Home in a local residential area.

Research Reports:

D.W. Edgington, M.A. Goldberg, and T.A. Hutton (2006) “Hong Kong Business, Money and Migration in Vancouver,” in W. Li (ed.) The New Asian Immigrant Community: from Urban Enclave to Ethnic Suburb, Hawaii, University of Hawaii Press, 155-183

Conference Presentation:

D.W. Edgington (2006) “Group Homes in Richmond, BC”, paper presented at the 8th National Metropolis Conference, Vancouver, March.


Japanese Electronics Firms in the Greater China Circle

This SSHRC funded research is conduced together with colleague Roger Hayter (Geography, SFU) and attempts to unravel the increasingly complex division of labour forged by Japanese electronics companies among the regions which make up the `Greater China Circle’ (the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong). This part of Asia is becoming integrated through flows of trade and investment, in part due to the long-term strategies of Japanese multinationals (MNC). The research project describes and explain the production chains that have been constructed by Japanese firms across the political boundaries of Greater China, and the role played by each firms’ operations by country and region. Japanese direct foreign investment and the operations of its MNCs are often seen as providing technological learning to the rest of East Asia, and so the extent of this transfer of technology through upgrading workforce skills and local suppliers is highlighted. This study proceeds directly from a previous SSHRC funded project conducted together with Roger Hayter that examined Japanese investments in Southeast Asia up to and during the time of the `Asian financial crisis’ of 1997-8.

Besides assembling data sets of Japanese companies overseas activities (e.g. sales offices, factories, R and D centres) in Greater China, field work took place between 2001 to 2007 in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Taiwan, where interviews with the local offices of the 15 major Japanese electronics firms (including Sony, Matsushita Electronic Industries and Toshiba) allowed detailed examination of the evolving spatial division of labour across the region.

Overall, the study argues that Japan-China relationships have always been political, and that the historical roots of political rivalry are embedded in contemporary relationships, particularly by the way Japanese electronics firms are approaching their investments in mainland China. The first part of the study reviews the major phases in the evolution of the Japan-Sino relations during the modern period, from military conflict before 1945 to economic engagement after 1978. More contemporary trends are leading to a shift in Japanese production in China, and these are mapped from research into the 15 Japanese electronics companies and their operations. Japanese trade and investment in East Asia during the 1980s and 1990s have been encapsulated by the `Flying Geese’ metaphor; but present-day interactions with China are not so easily explained. To explain why, examples are given of bargaining over investment and technology outcomes between the Chinese government and Japanese companies, Japanese corporate motivations, local training and technology transfer practices, and the implications for domestic Japanese production. The study underscores the significant growth of Japanese production capacity in China and places this in a larger historical context. Such an approach contrasts with the mainstream economic viewpoint, that Japan-China trade and investment relationships are `complementary and non-threatening to Japan.

Research Reports:

Chia-Wen Lee, Roger Hayter and David. W. Edgington (2008) Large and Latecomer Firms: The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Taiwan’s Electronics Industry, Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie (Journal of Economic & Social Geography), Vol 99 (in press).

R. Hayter and D.W. Edgington (2004) “’Flying Geese in Asia: The Impact of Japanese MNCs as a Source of Industrial Learning”, Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie (Journal of Economic and Social Geography), 95, 5-26.

D.W. Edgington and R. Hayter (2005) “Hong Kong’s Changing Role as a Global City: The Perspective of Japanese Electronic MNCs” in P.W. Daniels, K.C. Ho and T.A. Hutton (Eds.) Service Industries and Asia-Pacific Cities: New Development Trajectories, London, Routledge, 173-199.

D.W. Edgington and R. Hayter (2006) “Higashi Ajia to Chugoku ni okeru Nihon no erekutoronikusu kigyou– Koushouryoku, bunka shuutoku oyobi umekomi” (Japanese Electronics Firms in Southeast Asia and China: Negotiation, Learning and Embeddedness) in Higashi Ajia Kyudutai no Kuchiku (The Creation of an East Asian Community). Ed. Nishiguchi Kiyokatsu. Kyoto, Mineruva Shobu, 143-169.

Conference Presentations:

D.W. Edgington and R. Hayter (2004) “The Flying Geese versus the Big Panda: Japan-China Relationships and the Electronics Industry”, American Association of Geographers Meeting, Philadelphia, April.

L. Lee, R. Hayter and D.W. Edgington (2007) “Large and Latecomer Firms: The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Taiwan’s Electronics Industry”, paper presented to the Second Global Conference On Economic Geography, Beijing, 25-28 June.”

Allied Research by Graduate Students:

My PhD student Baoling Wang is studying Canadian companies in China. She is using a framework drawing from the literature on direct overseas investment and issues of cultural learning to investigate why there are so few Canadian firms operating in the PRC. Her work has taken her to Beijing and Shanghai to interview Canadian companies and she has compiled an interesting array of challenges faced by small Canadian firms in China. In 2006 Baoling Wang won a student essay award from the Asian Geography Specialty Group at the AAG (American Association of Geographers).

Roger Hayter’s Master student Lydia Lee completed a thesis in 2005 on the role of latecomer firms and latecomer economies in East Asia. The field work involved research examining the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation.

Shanghai skyline

Changes in Urban Governance in Japan

Japan’s social and economic environment has changed markedly in the last 15 years or so, yet very little is known as to the impact on its urban planning and urban governance systems. How have Japanese cities addressed a slowing in Japan’s overall trends related to a slowing down of population growth and urbanization, stagnant economic growth, ageing of the population, and more foreign workers in the community? In the early part of this decade the Japanese central government – under former Prime Minister Koizumi – often urged a `new era of reform’ in public life, yet little is known about new approaches taking place at the urban level in Japan. The existing scholarly literature on changes in Japanese cities includes accounts of dramatic change in the `economic bubble’ period of the late 1980s, as well as the recession in the 1990s. This research projects updates our knowledge for the years following the turn of the new millennium and I hope this will prove useful in terms of comparative urban policy analysis. Funding has been provided by SSHRC, The Japan Foundation, and the UBC Hampton Grant Fund.

The project involved field surveys with planners and administrators in Japan’s major 15 cities conducted in 2004 to 2006. The interviews with planning staff were designed to investigate how the largest cities in Japan have tackled a range of contemporary issues. These include: a marked reduction in the tempo of the economy and urban tax base since 1990; the need to restructure the urban economy to focus on even higher levels of technology; the continuing shift of Japan’s factory production to mainland China; higher aspirations among local communities relating to the environment, welfare and quality of life; rapid aging of the population; and an increasingly more diverse local community due to higher levels of foreign workers in Japan.

An allied project took place in March 2007, comprising a two-day workshop in Vancouver funded by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada – with scholars and government policy makers from Japan. From this meeting came a collaboration of researchers and a special collection of articles in the journal Prometheus in 2008 dealing with the local economic implications of new approaches to science and technology and the role of cities and regions.

Research Reports:

D.W. Edgington (2008) “The Japanese Innovation System: University–Industry Linkages, Small Firms and Regional Technology Clusters”, Prometheus, 26, 11-20.

D.W. Edgington (2008) “Japanese Approaches to Technology Clusters: Implications for British Columbia”, Canada Asia Commentary Number 48, Vancouver, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada,

D.W. Edgington (2008) “The Kyoto Research Park and Innovation in Japanese Cities”, Urban Geography, 29, 411-454.

Conference Presentations:

D.W. Edgington (2006) “Gaijin’ are Residents Too: Multiculturalism and Cities in Japan”, American Association of Geographers Meeting, Chicago, March.

D.W. Edgington (2006) “Multicultural Planning in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area,” Japan Studies Association of Canada Meeting, Thompson Rivers University, October.

D.W. Edgington (2006) “Science and Innovation Programs in Japanese Cities: The Case of the Kyoto Research Park,” North American Regional Science Association Meeting, Toronto, November.

Japanese Urban Landscape

Rebuilding Kobe after the Hanshin Earthquake

“Strange and mysterious things, though, aren’t they – earthquakes? We take it for granted that the earth beneath our feet is solid and stationary. We even talk about people being `down to earth’ or having their feet firmly planed on the ground. But suddenly one day we see that isn’t true. The earth, the boulders, that are supposed to be solid, all of a sudden turn as mushy as liquid” (from `after the quake’ by Murakami Haruki).

I have long wanted to tell the story of Kobe’s reconstruction following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, an episode that led to the loss of over 6,000 lives and which destroyed over 200,000 homes. An earlier essay, written with colleagues Tom Hutton and Michael Leaf, was published by The Japan Foundation. When the disaster struck early in the morning of January 17th, 1995, I was living with my own family in Kyoto, Japan, a city just outside of the Hanshin disaster zone. The apartment we resided in `shook and rattled’ and soon after it was announced on the radio that while Kyoto had experienced a level 5 quake the epicenter was close to Kobe in Awaji Island. Telephone lines to the disaster stricken area were cut, and it was only later that news reports began to give details of the destruction. On that day, the earth around Kobe without doubt turned `as mushy as liquid’. Ten years later, a sabbatical in Japan allowed me to reflect on what had taken place in terms of the city’s recovery. My study of Kobe’s recovery from the earthquake up to early 2005 reveals the essential complexity of reconstruction planning following disasters. The long-term recovery of cities affected by natural calamities differs significantly from the provision of immediate post-disaster rescue and relief. While speed remains important, proper planning becomes even more crucial. Putting up temporary housing is relatively fast and easy, but rebuilding a viable and vibrant community is not. This study encompasses issues related to land use changes, urban governance and economic recovery. It is based on field investigations conducted between 1995 and 2005 and interviews with Kobe’s planners, economists, consultants, academics and national government officials. I explore the twin themes of `crisis’ and `opportunity’ in order to bring to light the city’s reconstruction objectives after the quake. In addition, I employ a framework derived from the literature on post-disaster reconstruction in order to understand the influence of prior circumstances in Kobe, the geography of the earthquake impact, aspects of government actions and community responses.

The earthquake and the ensuing fires that devastated parts of Kobe presented opportunities to rebuild districts that city planners had been unable to touch before, and to secure funds from the national government for novel infrastructure projects. Both Kobe city and Hyogo prefecture issued long-term plans for the rejuvenation of the Hanshin area – such as the `Phoenix Plan’, an ambitious serious of projects designed to vault Kobe ahead of its competitors. These schemes provided an opportunity for new approaches and high-profile urban development. Nevertheless, they were challenged – at least initially – by citizens who felt vulnerable and disempowered in the period following the quake. Accordingly, Kobe’s planners had to win back community trust through the use of an extensive local consultation process – known in Japan as machizukuri. Through case studies, the research indicates that the ability to rebuild stricken neighbourhoods was decidedly problematic. In part this was due to aspects of Japan’s style of urban redevelopment. The study shows also that reconstruction outcomes and rates of recovery were highly differentiated within Kobe itself. By 2005 the construction of key `symbolic infrastructure’ projects (such as museums and an enterprise zone) formed a key part of the city’s rebuilding, and many of these were fully completed and operational within the 10-year reconstruction period. However, it is doubtful whether they were well-connected to the long-term improvement of the local economy.

Overall, the study confirms the inherent complications involved in reconstruction after a major disaster while pointing to cultural features specific to the Japanese model. There are many lessons from the Kobe disaster and reconstruction planning to be learned for other Japanese cities and, more generally, for disaster-prone areas in other countries around the world. Above all else, a study of the Hanshin earthquake shows many parallels between the Vancouver and the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia and Kobe. Both Vancouver and Kobe are port cities around 1.5 million people, both have large areas subject to liquefaction (land subsidence after earthquakes) and both have a mix of old and new construction. For that reason I hope Kobe’s experience can in some way inform pre-disaster plans for reconstruction in my own community. A book-length manuscript is currently being finalized for publication by a university press.

Research Report:

D.W. Edgington, T. Hutton and M. Leaf (1999) The Post-quake Reconstruction of Kobe: Economic, Land Use and Housing Perspectives, The Japan Foundation Newsletter, XXVII(1), 13-15,17.

Conference Presentation:

D.W. Edgington (2005) “The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity: Kobe’s Reconstruction Ten Years After the Hanshin Earthquake”, Centre for Japanese Research, UBC, October 28th.

Kobe after the Hanshin Earthquake