Table of Contents

China’s Urban Century

China’s Urban Century

Governance, Environment and Socio-Economic Imperatives

Edited by François Gipouloux

The achievements of China’s urbanization should not be evaluated solely in terms of adequate infrastructures, but also in their ability to implement sound governance practices to ensure social, environmental and economic development. This book addresses several key challenges faced by Chinese cities, based on the most recent policies and experiments adopted by central and local governments. The contributors offer an interdisciplinary analysis of the urbanization process in China, and examine the following key topics: the institutional foundations of Chinese cities, the legal status of the land, the rural to urban migration, the preservation of the urban heritage and the creation of urban community, and the competitiveness of Chinese cities. They define the current issues and challenges emerging from China’s urbanization.

Chapter 7: The ‘eco’ and ‘low-carbon’ promise: a critical review of China’s experience

Luis Balula and Olivia Bina

Subjects: asian studies, asian urban and regional studies, environment, agricultural economics, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation, urban and regional studies, urban economics


We project that China will build almost 40 billion square meters of floor space over the next 20 years . . . the equivalent of up to 10 New York cities. (MGI, 2009, p. 18) Without a doubt, Chinese urban development in the last three decades has combined scale and speed in unique and unprecedented ways. Overall energy demand in China is expected to more than double between 2015 and 2025, with urban demand reaching 85 to 90 per cent of total demand (Bina et al., 2013). Each year, 10 million people migrate from rural to urban areas, a flow predicted to add up to 350 million new residents in urban areas by 2030, leading to an urban population of 900 million by 2050 (OECD–CDRF, 2010). Urbanization and economic growth have become almost synonymous in contemporary China’s public discourse; thus Premier Li Keqiang champions urbanization as a ‘huge engine’ that will ‘usher in a huge amount of consumption and investment demand, increasing job opportunities, create wealth for farmers, and bring benefits to the people’ (Shen and Loo, 2013). Indeed, China’s urbanization process has progressed faster than economic growth since 2004 (Chen et al., 2013). Against this backdrop, the Chinese government subscribed to broad notions of sustainable urban development, and rapidly accumulating social and environmental problems (notably air and water pollution levels) have contributed to push this high on Chinese leaders’ agendas (NPC, 2011).

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