Urbanization in China

This month saw the formal change in leadership in China, with Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang taking over the positions of president and prime minister at the 12th National People’s Congress.

It quickly became clear that one of Li Keqiang’s main policy items will focus on urbanization in China as a way to maintain economic growth. Urbanization has been an important development in China for the past decades, with the urban population outnumbering the rural population since 2011.

The China Economic Watch blog looks a little closer at this intended focus of the new administration:

“What is interesting about Premier Li’s approach is that it takes the issue of urbanization, which has been the primary driver of regional disparity and income inequality, and repackages it in a way that addresses those exact issues.”

It won’t be easy to tackle the issues that come with urbanization and urban development in China, and to turn them into a source of positive economic development. It will be interesting to follow how this works out in the next few years; also from a Dutch point of view. Many organisations from the Netherlands are involved in the topic of urban development locally but also in China as some news items & events from the past week will show:

  • last Monday, Pakhuis de Zwijger hosted an evening on working in China as a Dutch architect, including a screening of the documentary “The Making of the World’s Largest TV Tower” about the Guangzhou TV Tower;
  • last Thursday I attended the book launch for “The Shanghai Alleyway House; a vanishing urban venacular” at IIAS;
  • the Dutch company Arcadis has signed an agreement with the city of Wuhan to work on restoring some of the old parts of the city (article in Dutch);
  • the Dutch company Inbo recently was one of the experts at an expert meeting for the Shenzhen International Low Carbon City.

It seems that Dutch expertise can be useful in some of the issues that Chinese cities will tackle in the next few years. However, in my discussions on this topic over the last few weeks the big question remaining is how to successfully connect these many and various companies and experts to the right projects and local governments in China. My next few weeks will be spent exploring this question further to look for possible solutions.

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