How China’s Urban-Rural Planning System is Going Through a Minor Revolution
The Ministry of Natural Resources will replace the Ministry of Land and Resources, as well as integrating the urban-rural planning function. This means that from now on, the urban planning function will no longer belong to the construction domain, as has been the case for the past nearly 70 years – and that is a minor revolution.
According to the reform plan, the Ministry of Environmental Protection will also be superseded by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
The new Ministry of Natural Resources’ responsibilities will include overseeing the management of natural resources (grasslands, forests, wetlands, water and maritime), establishing a system for paid use of natural resources, as well as implementing a spatial planning system. The new ministry will integrate the main spatial planning functions: the Urban-Rural Planning of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD), the National Main Functional Area Planning of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and the Land Use Planning of the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR).
Scattered in different ministries before, spatial planning policies and regulations often worked against each other in practice as the various actors multiplied. By trying to unify working methods and standards in a single administration could ensure the consistency of basic spatial information and the effectiveness of spatial management and control.
The new ministry is also supposed to carry out a strict management role, which it has inherited from the former Ministry of Land and Resources (vertical management under provincial level), aimed at reducing local governments interventions, and improving the robustness of urban-rural planning. With this evolution, the ‘integration of several plans into one’ reform (duoguiheyi) is expected to be more efficient in the future, based on unified spatial data, basic map and regulatory measures.
Nevertheless, as a newly established administration now in charge of spatial planning, the Ministry of Natural Resources will surely face challenges as it develops good cooperation and mutual supervisory roles with other ministries.
For instance, the NDRC retains responsibility for the ‘new type of urbanization’ (xinxing chengzhenhua) policy, and the MoHURD remains in charge of ‘urban-rural construction’ (chengxiang jianshe). These two urban-rural planning and construction functions used to be managed together by MoHURD; they overlapped relatively well in spite of some contradictions and issues. It remains to be seen whether, after being hived off to different ministries, the two functions will continue to work collaboratively.