This suburban expansion has taken place so quickly that in some places, it has created what are known in Chinese as 城中村 or chengzhongcun, which translates roughly to village-in-a-city: older mud and brick houses and abandoned fields surrounded by brand new apartment complexes. Often, residents of these villages choose to rent them out to migrant workers. Some even build small apartment buildings of their own and become full-fledged landlords. This creates something that’s not quite a slum, but not exactly a well-regulated residential complex either.
There are also wealthy gated communities and golf courses, and even good old-fashioned farms — all often right next to each other. “There’s often very little planning and it can be quite chaotic,” said Cindy Fan, associate dean of social sciences and a geography professor at UCLA. “So in the outskirts you see high-rises right next to little villages.” This is not, in other words, your typical Los Angeles suburb.