Newspaper article China Post

China Must Balance Urban Development Priorities

Newspaper article China Post

China Must Balance Urban Development Priorities

Article excerpt

On Tuesday, the Chinese government announced a five-year moratorium on the construction of new government buildings. The stated intent of the order is to cut down on extravagance and waste. Chinese President Xi Jinping's effort affords an opportunity to examine one of the most glamorized aspects of China's modernization - its urban development.

Dazzling city lights, majestic freeways and towering skyscrapers combine to yield an image of the Chinese metropolis that is defined by shininess, more space and structures that comprise a skyline that is awe-inspiring in its sense of infinity and complexity. Just last month, Chengdu's New Century Global Centre opened, and at 1.7 million square meters is billed as the largest building in the world by floor space, complete with an indoor water park, an IMAX cinema and hotels.

However, when visitors marvel at the state of Chinese urban development, they miss the mounting dangers associated with the rise of metropolitan China. While inspiring a sense of awesomeness, the government is realizing that urban outlook is but one part of its stated mission to "revitalize China." The mission can be loosely stated to mean improving the living standards of citizens by building a middle class.

By itself, the drive to beautify cities is a worthy endeavor that can improve the quality of life of residents. However, the method of such urban beautification should not be based on a vision only dominated by grandeur and extravagance. While visitors may be wowed by Shanghai's urban lights, residents have to grapple with the difficulties that come with living in a congested and highly condensed city.

Instead, emphasis should be shifted to rebalancing various competing priorities, including greenery coverage, transportation convenience, pollution reduction, natural light access and public service facility access. Where it is desirable to limit the scope of urban expansion, including the construction of new roads and infrastructure as well as buildings, expansion should be forgone in favor of those other priorities, which are also crucial to the health and well-being that form the basis of one's quality of life. …

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