This chapter discusses the port-city interplays in China since the Economic Reforms in 1978, with the emphasis on recent changes which are exemplified by three cases, namely, Ningbo, Xiamen and Nanjing. The selection of these three is based on the author’s latest on-site investigations. As the physical containment of the 40-year reforms from a closed command economy to the world’s largest trade-dependent economy, Chinese port cities have grown up rapidly with fast industrialization, ever-growing trade and urbanization. Although in some cases, such as Ningbo, where the port was moved away from the city core and the new port district has turned into a new city itself, cities such as Xiamen have witnessed port activities staying at the city core, bringing huge disturbances by its traffic and air pollution. A third way of evolution of port-city dynamics is presented in the case of Nanjing, where the high hope of becoming a quasi-seaport has been brought by the central government through deep dragging of Yangtze bursts, due largely to the development of downstream ports as well as the city’s own urbanization needs.
Chia-Lin Chen, Haixiao Pan, Qing Shen and James Jixian Wang
Since the economic reform and opening-up policy initiated in 1978, changes brought about by a series of consecutive reforms in Chinese society are unparalleled in human history. In this “post-Mao era”, the urbanisation process accelerated dramatically as “a policy exploitive of the rural sector” (Chan, 1994: 97) under the Mao regime had shifted to an urban development policy that “is not simply subordinated to industrialization policy…” and “should be treated as an inevitable process of modern development…” (Chan, 1994: 104). The rate of urbanisation, which denotes the proportion of the population living in urban areas, was merely 10.6 per cent in 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded. Over the course of the next thirty years, this proportion rose modestly to 17.9 per cent, whereas, since then, urbanisation has rocketed, with a further steep rise occurring soon after China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. In 1999, the rate of urbanisation was 30.89 per cent, a strong growth of 13 per cent over 21 years. In less than 18 years, the rate of urbanisation in 2017 had risen to 58.52 per cent, a 28 percent increase, doubling the growth between 1978 and 1999 (NBSC, 1999 and 2018). Transport, either as a means to meet development needs or by itself as an economic growth strategy, has played an indispensable role in contributing to rapid urbanisation, and vice versa. The aphorism of the British economist Colin Clark (Clark, 1958) – “transport is maker and breaker of cities” – proves to be insightful to depict the interactive relationship between transport and urbanisation through a series of developmental crises and technological breakthroughs. For Chinese cities, the pattern of interaction between urbanization and transport is much more complicated than that of most advanced economies, where development of the transport infrastructure took a fairly long period of time to reach its present state. Chinese cities have been a major arena for experiments; from large-scale motorisation to public transit development, from state-led rail transit development to spawning entrepreneur-driven business ideas (such as dockless bike-sharing systems and online ride-hailing systems), all concurring and overlapping in a relatively short time and leading to dramatic urban transformation with considerable challenges for sustainabl development in contemporary China. A recently-published book, Unsustainable Transport and Transition in China by Loo (2018), specifically addresses these challenges.