CHINA is set to roll out a creepy network of Truman Show-esque “Happy Communities” which will be home to 35million people by 2035.
Images show people smiling in the small-scale developments centred around a community hub – which China describes as an “ideal life”.
Chinese authorities are rolling out the plans to create these “community life circles” as part of their new vision of how their cities will look in the future.
And one of China’s biggest cities, Shanghai – which is forecast to have a population of 35million in the next 10 years – have vowed to make the “Happy Communities” available to 99 per cent of residents by 2035.
But the plans come against the chilling backdrop of China’s massive surveillance state apparatus.
And China’s new “Happy Communities” appear to be less like idyllic towns and more like state-managed communes.
Part of the plan is for Communist Party officials to embed themselves among locals, such as in one of the trial “Happy Community” in Qingpu.
“The office is open without doors, which makes our service down to earth,” Communist official Li Ping told Chinese state media outlet Shine.
“We talk face to face with villagers, and they feel at home here.”
China insists the plan is all about making life better for people and bringing services onto people’s doorsteps.
But it also feels similar to the fake world created in hit Jim Carrey movie “The Truman Show”.
Truman Burbank lives in the utopian world of Seahaven Island – where everyone is happy, everyone knows each other, and their needs are constantly met without ever needing to leave.
Yet unbeknownst to him he is constantly monitored – and every part of his life is micromanaged by a higher power, in his case a TV studio rather than the government.
So with Communist officials never being more than a few minutes away from you, it gives the “Happy Communities” a slightly sinister edge.
Residents have to download a government app onto their smartphone which will allow them to micromanage 100 government services.
Chinese media also reports digital “security monitoring” is being rolled out in some of the trial villages.
The “Happy Communities” appear to be less like towns and more like state-managed communes.
But some Chinese officials are insisting this is the future.
Communist party official Xu Jian, from Qinqpu, insisted the communities are “safe, harmonious and beautiful”.
The concept follows many warnings about the restrictions on Chinese society – such as with “social credit“, emotion-monitoring cameras, and smartphones stealing data.
Shanghai’s very own Happy Community, located in Zhangyan in the district of Quingpu, was once a quaint, ancient village.
The village, formerly known as Zhangyan Ancient Town, was once home to centuries-old Shanghai culture, and now houses almost 3,000 residents.
The Happy Community was designed and built by a team at Tongji University in 2021, when they completely transformed the ancient village into a modern blueprint for the future of Shanghai.
Residents are able to travel to work, go to school, use public transport and access medical care all within minutes of their homes.
The community covers an area of around 50,000 square meters, with over 1,200 brand new residential units.
The area is made up of four buildings, each with 24 floors, and features a range of apartments, from studio flats to three-bedroom units.
The village centre is where Happy Community residents can come together to read, watch movies, socialise, and even seek legal advice.
The legal consulting services in the centre also acts as a platform to mediate unhappy neighbour disputes.
Tu Yongjun, head of the Happy Community told Sixth Tone: “The centre was renovated from offices and we want to make residents step outside their homes to the community, and enjoy a ‘happy community’ life”.
Vacant farmland spaces have been renovated along with farmers’ residences, roads and bridges and public service facilities have been upgraded with fitness facilities as part Zhangyan’s futuristic makeover.
There are even robot doctors where you can get your blood pressure checked by an “intelligent health machine”.
The droid can study your health readings and decide if you need to see a doctor.
The community hosts regular get-togethers, such as movie nights and holiday celebrations, which encourage residents to spend time quality time with each other.
Though only 30km from the bustling downtown Shanghai, residents once struggled to access the services that city dwellers could.
They had no choice but to venture out of their community to visit anything from care homes to cinemas.
But now in the Happy Community, residents have immediate access to all essential services – and they’re right on their doorstep.
“We can solve all the small affairs in the community without leaving the village,” said Yongjun.
“The smile on villagers’ faces reflect the happy community life here,” their sense of gain has been enhanced”.
As the majority of the Happy Community are aged 60 plus, this project makes the ease of travelling to places in such a short timeframe extremely convenient to its residents.
Zhangyan’s transformation into the Happy Community was among the first batch of pilot villages for the concept.
According to the Shanghai Master Plan 2017-2035, authorities are working towards making these communities available to 99 percent of the population by 2035.
In 2020, China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development released guidelines for promoting the development of these style of commune.
The guidelines called for the creation of mixed-use neighbourhood’s that are well-connected by public transportation, bike lanes, and pedestrian-friendly streets.
The aim is to reduce urban sprawl, traffic congestion, and air pollution while improving quality of life for residents.
Several other cities outside of Shanghai have also begun to implement the concept.
In Shenzhen, southeast China, the government has launched a pilot program to transform 100 existing neighbourhoods into the “community life circles”.
The city of Chengdu, southwest China, has also announced plans to develop 30 of the communities by 2025.