Unforbidden cities – Harrison Fraker


In a two-part series for China Dialogue, the dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design writes about a trip to , takes apart the environmental costs of China’s nightmare, and examines a possible solution:

Intersections, even though signalised, presented a terrifying game of “chicken”. Cars, trucks, and buses wove through an equal number of bicyclists (often with multiple passengers or goods) and pedestrians. The dust and were so intense that most bicyclists wore face masks. With siren blaring, we sped along the shoulder, past what appeared to be an unending series of developments, including a new college campus, high-tech office parks and multiple high-density housing developments. As far as the eye could see, the entire landscape seemed under construction.

The scale of infrastructure construction to support this kind of hyper-development in China is hard to imagine. It is estimated that China builds more than fifty 300-megawatt coal-fired power plants per year. California has only built 36 in the last five years. China is undertaking the largest road construction program in the world, equivalent to the US Interstate highway system begun in the 1950s. The capital and material costs of this effort are increased by the fact that, in most areas of infrastructure, China is playing catch-up…

We knew that Chinese gated superblocks comprise the largest part of China’s overall development efforts, which are among the most ambitious construction in the history of the world. The Chinese are building 10 to 15 gated superblocks every day, equal to 10 million to 12 million housing units per year (10 times the US average). The process benefits from a clear definition of roles…

Read the full text of Part One (introduction to the problem)

Read the full text of Part Two (possible solution)

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