Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries

By Mike Jenks; Rod Burgess | Go to book overview

Stephen S.Y. Lau, Q.M. Mahtab-uz-Zaman and So Hing Mei

A High-Density ‘Instant’ City:

Pudong in Shanghai

Introduction

The visible change to many Chinese cities over the past two decades has been the ultra-rapid emergence of high-density, high-rise built forms, a phenomenon that has led to the term ‘instant’ cities. This chapter discusses the process of forming the ‘instant’ city of Pudong, a large area within Shanghai, and analyses the present environmental, economic, social and cultural impact of its phenomenal pace of development. It is argued that ‘instant’ cities in China do not reflect regionalism, but are a product of intense competition to reach world city status. This chapter suggests that while these forms of rapid development seem to be becoming a model for future development, the process of urban growth occurs with apparent disregard for sustainability.

Shanghai has a favoured geographic location at the mid-point of the Asian economic corridor, which encompasses global cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore (Fig. 1). It has a total land area of 6,219km2, nearly 3,250km2 are urbanised, and by 1998 it had a population of 13 million. Historically, Shanghai has been an important city to China since it was designated as a Treaty Port in the early 1840s. By 1949, Shanghai’s financial market was the third largest in the world after London and New York, surpassing Tokyo, Zurich and Hong Kong (Li, 1998). During the period 1949-1984, China’s anti-development strategy drained 87% of Shanghai’s total revenue through taxation, leaving little money to improve the city, especially its infrastructure (MacPherson, 1994). In 1984 Shanghai, together with 13 other coastal cities, was opened up to foreign investment as a result of China’s Open Door Policy (Li, 1991). Now, Shanghai is shifting from being an economic powerhouse in East Asia towards world city status. The state’s intention of turning Shanghai into a world city led the government to adopt a high-density, vertical city form, with eye-catching skyscrapers, setting a new standard for China’s overall development. A foreign-led, and high-density-driven, urban development strategy has become the acceptable norm in Shanghai. This strategy is supported by the Chinese government and private developers and will be used for the ‘national reconstruction’ for the whole of China.

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