China’s urban planning issues

27 Aug

This Guardian article provides strong critiques of modern Chinese urban planning, which the writer says is heavily based on replicating American cities in the last few decades, which turned out to be a mistake. These include the prioritizing of cars over bicycles, the construction of sprawling suburbs with large homes, and constant construction of business and high-end residential buildings that are not necessarily needed or effective.
There are two separate but related issues here- one is the local middle-class’ desire to live a Western lifestyle, with cars, big standlone houses and lawns, and the other is that local governments, meaning provinces, cities, counties, all depend heavily on selling off land to earn money. As such, there’s a constant cycle of selling land to developers, who then construct waves of apartment and business towers, and then finding more land on the edges of cities and towns, which often requires seizing agricultural land. As the writer says “Local bureaucrats have financed their operations to a large extent by hawking property to developers, who in turn expand the suburbs farther and farther from the urban core. Last year, land sales accounted for 55% of local governments’ revenues, according to China Daily.”

As such, it’s easy to understand the why behind China’s ceaseless and flawed urbanization. There’s nothing careless about the way how urban planning has unfolded; it’s been a deliberate process.



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