Tackling the Challenges of China’s Urban Development

World Economic Forum - China Urban DevelopmentBeijing (People’s Republic of China) – August 5, 2014 – With 54% of the Chinese population living in cities, China has six megacities of more than 10 million inhabitants and 103 cities of more than one million inhabitants. This presents China with a unique set of urban challenges that rapidly need to be addressed to ensure that these cities remain liveable, productive and sustainable. As China’s urbanization rate is slated to grow to 60% by 2018, two years earlier than initially forecast, the need to address these urban challenges is all the more pressing.

The World Economic Forum has released a new report, The Future of Urban Development Initiative: Dalian and Zhangjiakou Champion City Strategy, in collaboration with the China Center for Urban Development (CCUD). ” The report identifies three main urbanization themes for Chinese cities: transport planning and management, urban energy management and sustainable industry development, and proposes 19 strategic recommendations and best practices case studies to guide Dalian and Zhangjiakou.

“Transport planning and management, urban energy management and sustainable industry development are common urban development issues around the world,” said Olivier Schwab, Executive Director of the World Economic Forum Beijing Representative Office. “The report presents case studies from other major urban centres and discusses how they can best support these three urban development themes in China, given local conditions.”

Recommendations outlined in the report for the northern seaport city of Dalian include:

Limit urban expansion and reduce sprawl, develop an intelligent transport system (ITS) and encourage private sector participation to strengthen public transportation
Scale up natural gas, increase the share of renewable energy, in particular off-shore wind, and improve energy efficiency performance, especially in the petrochemical sector
Further develop petrochemical and equipment manufacturing, promote service and high value-added industries such as R&D, software and outsourcing and build a more competitive industrial value chain

Recommendations for Zhangjiakou, located near Beijing, include:

Develop ITS for traffic management to maximize intercity traffic efficiency, improve public transportation development and address conflict between transport and land development
Increase power transmission capacities, particularly wind, and optimize the use of power within the city
Scale up emerging industries, such as high value-added manufacturing or premium food, and promote industry-induced local economic and social development

Li Tie, Director-General, China Center for Urban Development, said: “Dalian’s challenges concern its inner-city area and the need to accelerate urban management capabilities. Zhangjiakou’s challenges concern external connectivity, especially given its role in the “Greater Beijing” regional development plan and its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.”

Transportation remains a critical issue that stunts the growth of many cities’ urban development in China, Michael Kwok, Director, Arup, noted: “to solve traffic problems by simply building more roads is like treating obesity by loosening the belt, which does not tackle the root cause. The Champion City can adopt an intelligent transport system (ITS), such as analysis based on transportation data, electronic road pricing, dynamic speed limits and a smarter road with higher efficiency etc. as well as better public transportation services to reduce the road pressure”.

“Cities are centres of resource consumption and environmental stress,” noted Gong Li, Senior Managing Director, Greater China, Accenture. “China’s urban prosperity will sustain itself only if cities can achieve economic growth with lower per-unit energy consumption and less environmental impact. Most mid-sized cities in China have less legacy burdens and the greatest potential to transform towards a ‘New Resource Economy’.”

The report was developed with the China Center for Urban Development (CCUD) as a World Economic Regional Partner. It also involved the collaboration of Accenture as project adviser and Arup as technical adviser.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Urban Development Initiative serves as a partner in transformation to cities around the world as they seek to address major urban challenges and transition towards smarter, more sustainable cities in this rapidly urbanizing world. Directed by a Steering Board and guided by an Advisory Board, the Future of Urban Development Initiative works in collaboration with local partners.

The Champion City Model is a core activity of the Future of Urban Development Initiative. It is designed to support cities, working hand-in-hand with multistakeholders from the private and public sectors, to select Champion Cities, identify the specific challenges confronting them and enable the development of a strategy to overcome the challenges. All of the solutions employed promote the transition towards smarter, more sustainable practices; advance new models of infrastructure, urban design, mobility and energy; and generate foresight, so that cities and private sector leaders can best position themselves for the future.

The China Center for Urban Development (CCUD), established in 1998, is a public institution of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), People’s Republic of China. Major functions include providing policy consultancy on urbanization and urban development.

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