From Sand to Skyscrapers: Inside China’s Newest City

As Beijing plans to move hundreds of millions into China’s cities, Tom Phillips reports from Lanzhou New Area, a new city under construction in Gansu province for which 700 mountains were condemned to be flattened:

Its first full-time residents will move in this year and, by 2020, Lanzhou New Area’s architects envisage its transformation into an industrial and logistics hub that is home to 500,000 people, with a hi-tech research centre dubbed “Wisdom Valley”. Officials hope it will generate £27 billion a year of output by 2030.

[…] Lanzhou New Area is part of a continuing “Go West” campaign to modernise China’s sprawling and underdeveloped hinterlands.

Perhaps even more importantly, it is also another step in a breathtaking push for urbanisation through which China’s incoming leaders hope to haul millions from rural poverty and create a vibrant home-grown consumer market to bolster the economy.

In March, when president Xi Jinping and prime minister Li Keqiang took power, Mr Li vowed to promote “a new type of urbanisation that puts the people at its heart.” [Source]

While some are excited at the prospect of urbanization, others are wary of its social and environmental consequences, particularly given its planned speed and scale. “If current trends continue”, Phillips notes, “China will be home to 1 billion urbanites by 2030, and by 2025 it will have 221 cities with more than 1 million residents.”

Read more on urbanization in China and the country’s rural-urban divide via CDT, including ‘8 Questions and a Podcast on ‘China’s Urban Billion’‘ with author Tom Miller.


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