European Expertise at the service of Chinese urbanization
On June 14, the China Daily Europe published Slick Cities, an article we highly recommend for its details on a possible collaboration between China and Europe in the field of urban planning. The article was included in a previous feature story in 2012 on the same topic.
Slick Cities firstly draws a parallel between the development occurring in Europe at the beginning of the last century and China’s current situation. Taking heed of the lessons learned from Europe’s urbanization would prove useful on two points in particular: how to ensure a healthy parallel growth between economic development and urbanization; and how to contend with the environmental issues associated with urbanization. European cities where economic growth coexists with low energy consumption are inspiring for China, particularly the United Kingdom, a model economy with very low carbon emissions.
The article also provides some history on China’s recent urban policies by detailing the last three of China’s Five-Year Plans, during which China’s urbanization went from “a development strategy to a sustainable development strategy.” The current Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) sets ambitious targets to achieve this sustainable growth: create 36 million units of social housing and ensure urbanization with low carbon emissions. A financial aid policy has also been set up to encourage the development of strategic sectors including biotechnology, new energy, new materials, clean energy, high-end industry, energy conservation, and new information technologies.
The journalists were also interested in the projections of McKinsey in their report “Preparing for China’s Urban Billion”(2009), which speculates that the urban population will reach 1 billion inhabitants, that is to say 221 cities with more than 1 million people, by 2030. It is estimated that 90% of the GDP will come from the urban economy. In this process of urbanization, China faces several challenges: creating a social balance in favor of migrants settling in cities (today estimated to be 262.6 million); implementing land reforms that will allow expropriated farmers more favorable compensation; and organizing property taxes to ensure communities will be able to self-finance and become more financially self-sufficient.
Finally, the article reviews the collaboration program between China and Europe UrbaChina, which began in 2011. Program-coordinator François Gipouloux encourages long-term cooperation between Europe and China, and emphasizes the need to share knowledge in fields such as mobility, connectivity, innovation, environmental protection, infrastructure financing and financial services.