Building on previous year’s body of research, LU took again China’s ambition to build 400 new cities by 2020 as the basis for its brief. According to this plan, 20 new cities are to be built each year to contain the huge numbers of people – around 12 million annually – who are leaving the countryside for urban areas. Far from resisting this development, we opportunistically generated ‘proto-strategies’ for new large-scale agglomerations as a means of critically addressing the phenomenon of mass-produced urban sprawl. Our test bed was the Pearl River Delta, where students focused on the emergence of four benchmark conditions identified by our previous research: the underlying dysfunction and creative potential of industrial ecologies in the rapidly urbanising rural hinterland; the rapid deindustrialisation and disintegration of second-cycle city cores; the emerging resistance of traditional and informally grown urban cores to top-down planning procedures; and the terms by which a new sprawling state engages with existing agricultural land. We operated critically, seeking to produce alternative templates of urbanisation based on strategies that stemmed from embryonic processes seeking the integration of cultural tradition, regional ecological systems and economic globalisation.