Shanghai sets limits on urban construction
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.