Toward sustainable urbanisation in China – Jiang Gaoming

A detailed new essay from China Dialogue on sustainable urban development in China from a Chinese Academy of Sciences professor who also helps lead UNESCO’s China-MAB (Man and the biosphere) program:

This urban explosion is linked to an unfortunate quest for large, foreign-style cities. Cities, plazas, roads, houses – the bigger and more foreign they are, the better, whether they are needed or not. Cities are swallowing up their surroundings – particularly Beijing, which is expanding by 20 square kilometers per year and showing no sign of slowing. Economically backward cities build huge plazas, cities with no congestion build eight-lane highways, all for the sake of appearance. The trend for spacious accommodation started with Beijing officials, with the standard living area for a departmental cadre rocketing from 70 or 80 square meters to over 200. There is even competition over who has the biggest office. And buildings are built in foreign styles, leaving us with non-descript cookie-cutter cities.

One direct result of urban expansion is the massive consumption of non-renewable resources. Villages surrounding cities are being replaced with high-rises. This “fast-food” approach to urbanisation is destroying villages and consuming precious non-renewable materials. [Full Text]

The essay appears at roughly the same time as a noteworthy pair of articles on urbanization from the Party mouthpiece People’s Daily. One, appearing on August 23, recounts criticism of poor development practices uttered at the recent Mayor’s Forum:

Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan told the forum’s opening ceremony that measures must be taken to curb blind expansion and the waste of land and capital resources.

“Find the rhythm of your city’s development, avoid urban sprawl and the arbitrary use of land resources,” Zeng told more than 300 participants at the forum initiated by the China Mayors’ Association, stressing that a city must develop its own personality rather than simply replicate projects seen elsewhere. [Full Text]

The second appeared yesterday, under a headline reading “Number of clean Chinese cities increases.” In this one, the paper cited numbers from SEPA showing an .95 percent increase in clean drinking water last year as evidence that “management of urban environments has improved significantly.”

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