Manufacturing villages were a key theme in Marco Polo's Travel Book. Although the book may be just a vague remembrance written while in prison, Polo was in China for 30 years working as an ambassador to Kublai Khan who did not trust the naive Han Chinese.
His book was about the cities he visited and the manufacturing taking place. During this time Khan united the south Song with the north. At this point in time the Chinese were by far the wealthiest society on earth. A couple of years ago the Met Museum had an exhibit of the Khan dynasty and indeed they were very wealthy as clearly displayed in the museum.
From Wikipedia: In 1271, Kublai established the Yuan dynasty, which ruled over present-day Mongolia, China, Korea, and some adjacent areas, and assumed the role of Emperor of China. By 1279, the Yuan forces had overcome the last resistance of the Southern Song dynasty, and Kublai became the first non-native Emperor to conquer all of China.
He also built the Grand Canal to bring food to Beijing. Certainly the idea of a manufacturing Village, or city, was in full force at this time and was one of the several reasons for the wealth of the time.
Today, many Chinese cities are one product towns. Such efficiencies make manufacturing internationally competitive with or without low wages.
History, once again, curently is taking a sharp turn into autmation and computerization. ManufacturingVillage.com is the boat to ride the tide.