Shang­hai sets lim­its on ur­ban con­struc­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By LI YANG in Shang­hai liyang@chi­

The Shang­hai govern­ment has set a limit for the city’s fi­nal ur­ban-con­struc­tion area at 3,226 square kilo­me­ters.

Af­ter the rest of 156 sq km of con­struc­tion land in Shang­hai is used up in 2020, the city’s ur­ban-con­struc­tion area will not grow any­more, and the city’s per­ma­nent res­i­den­tial pop­u­la­tion will stay at about 27 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a draft of the city plan.

Ur­ban con­struc­tion sites in Shang­hai ac­count for more than 40 per­cent of the city’s to­tal area, much higher than in Lon­don, Paris and Tokyo, which are seen as city mod­els by Shang­hai’s govern­ment.

“The new plan­ning must re­serve con­sid­er­able land and en­vi­ron­ment ca­pac­i­ties for the off­spring,” Han Zheng, Shang­hai’s mayor, said at a city-plan­ning con­fer­ence ear­lier this month.

The eco­nomic out­put of per unit area of ur­ban-con­struc­tion land in Shang­hai is onethird of Paris and one-ninth of Tokyo. Shang­hai’s pub­lic green space is about one-third of cities in de­vel­oped coun­tries.

Ur­ban­iza­tion in China doesn’t lead to more ef­fi­cient land use, but, rather, a waste of land. In China, the amount of ur­ban area ex­panded at an aver­age of 6.3 per­cent each year from 1981 to 2008. Mean­while, in each of those years, the ur­ban pop­u­la­tion grew an aver­age of 4.2 per­cent.

Sta­tis­tics of the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion show that from 1980 to 2005, ev­ery 1 per­cent of eco­nomic growth in China took about 20,000 hectares of farm­land. In con­trast, from 1965 to 1984, that same per­cent­age of eco­nomic growth in Ja­pan took about 2,500 hectares of farm­land.

Mak­ing bet­ter use of the cur­rent ur­ban area should be a pri­or­ity in ur­ban­iza­tion for many lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

Sun Li­jian, an econ­o­mist of Fu­dan Univer­sity, said Shang­hai’s govern­ment has no choice but to set a limit for the ur­ban­con­struc­tion area be­cause of pre­vi­ous ex­ten­sive land use.

“In terms of in­dus­tries, Shang­hai should be­come a cen­ter of fi­nance, ser­vice in­dus­tries, re­search and de­vel­op­ment and ed­u­ca­tion and in­crease the added value of its limited land,” Sun said.

Shang­hai has been a model city in China. When Shang­hai’s govern­ment drafts new city plan­ning, it shoul­ders re­spon­si­bil­ity to make that plan­ning a valu­able ref­er­ence tool for many other Chi­nese cities.

Sav­ing land and im­prov­ing the ef­fi­cient use of cur­rent ur­ban ar­eas are cen­tral to Shang­hai’s new city plan­ning, and should also be heeded by other Chi­nese city gov­ern­ments.

In the city plan­ning con­fer­ence, Jiang Daming, head of of the Min­istry of Land and Re­sources, said that Shang­hai should ac­cel­er­ate its trans­for­ma­tion from a large city to be­ing the core city of a world­class city clus­ter in the Yangtze River Delta, and take the lead in putting the cen­tral govern­ment’s prin­ci­ples of ur­ban­iza­tion into a trans­plantable man­ner.

Han said the new plan­ning should be based on the city’s his­tory and prac­ti­cal con­di­tion, and should meet the cen­tral govern­ment’s re­quire­ments for Shang­hai as a new in­ter­na­tional city.

The con­fer­ence at­ten­dees agreed that pop­u­la­tion, land and eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment are the three key re­stric­tive fac­tors for Shang­hai’s new plan­ning, and Shang­hai’s in­te­gra­tion with neigh­bor­ing cities in both func­tion and space is cru­cial for the de­vel­op­ment of the whole Yangtze River Delta.

If more and more cities can re­spect those re­stric­tive roles of pop­u­la­tion, land and en­vi­ron­ment in city de­vel­op­ment, a lot of “city mal­adies” such as traf­fic con­ges­tion and pol­lu­tion can be avoided.

Many gov­ern­ments are overwhelmed by the in­vest­ment costs and scale of city con­struc­tion. A pre­vail­ing logic is to re­al­ize fast growth, the govern­ment should cre­ate the city first and then solve its prob­lems.

In many cases, people are left in the dark through­out the process of city plan­ning, which is one of the most im­por­tant pub­lic poli­cies for res­i­dents. And the people should par­tic­i­pate with the govern­ment in mak­ing such pub­lic poli­cies.

In this sense, Han em­pha­sized that people should have ways to take part in draft­ing the new plan­ning of Shang­hai. The govern­ment also needs to at­tach more sig­nif­i­cance to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of city plan­ning.

Yet, an­a­lysts ar­gue that the govern­ment should let the mar­ket play the de­ci­sive role in al­lo­cat­ing re­sources in the plan­ning and con­struc­tion of new satel­lite cities around Shang­hai’s down­town.

Most big- and medi­um­sized cities in China are con­struct­ing new satel­lite cities to boost in­vest­ment and eco­nomic growth. But many new cities are sparsely pop­u­lated and dubbed “ghost city” in Chi­nese.

Chen Jie, a re­searcher for real es­tate in­dus­try with Shang­hai Univer­sity of Fi­nance and Eco­nom­ics, said the two suc­cess­ful new cities of Zhangjiang, Jin­qiao and Pudong show that new cities nat­u­rally pros­per af­ter plenty of jobs ap­pear.

There are seven new cities un­der con­struc­tion in the sub­ur­ban area of Shang­hai. The new cities will hold nearly 5 mil­lion people by 2020 ac­cord­ing to their plans.

“The other new cities con­structed by the Shang­hai govern­ment fail to at­tract people be­cause in­dus­tries and mar­ket fac­tors do not de­velop well,” Chen said.

Chang­ing the govern­ment’s role in dom­i­nat­ing new city con­struc­tion is the fastest way for Shang­hai to awaken other cities now in the craze of cre­at­ing hol­low cities and in the blind pur­suit for growth on paper.

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