New type of ur­ban­iza­tion is not a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for grab­bing funds

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - THE CON­STRUC­TION OF TOWNS

with dis­tinc­tive lo­cal fea­tures must not cen­ter on de­mol­ish­ing old build­ings and makeshift re­brand­ing, said a re­cent cir­cu­lar is­sued by the Min­istry of Hous­ing and Ur­ban-Ru­ral Devel­op­ment. South­ern Me­trop­o­lis Daily com­mented on Satur­day:

The devel­op­ment of small ci­ties and small and medium-sized towns with dis­tinc­tive lo­cal fea­tures has been in the spot­light since Premier Li Ke­qiang men­tioned it was a key task in this year’s Gov­ern­ment Work Re­port. China is ex­pected to have around 1,000 such towns by 2020, and lo­cal gov­ern­ments as­pir­ing to build them have ac­cess to funds from the China Devel­op­ment Bank.

But the Min­istry of Hous­ing and Ur­ban-Ru­ral Devel­op­ment is right to take ac­tion to curb mal­prac­tices, such as the unau­tho­rized de­mo­li­tion of old build­ings or the re­nam­ing of sites. Among some 300 such towns un­der con­struc­tion, few are orig­i­nal and unique as ex­pected. Those pur­su­ing cul­tural tourism claim they have a long his­tory and mul­ti­ple cul­tural relics, yet most of them are newly built. Some are even named af­ter Euro­pean ci­ties.

Such copy­cat think­ing goes against the ef­forts to

em­u­late the suc­cess of the in­dus­trial clus­ters such as Sil­i­con Val­ley in the United States, which is home to a string of small towns where nu­mer­ous tech star­tups were born, and Cam­bridge in the United King­dom, which boasts con­sis­tent ed­u­ca­tional and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions that go far be­yond its size.

Their suc­cess, to a large ex­tent, is a re­sult of choices rather than ad­min­is­tra­tive or­ders. Build­ing new towns with­out good rea­son could well back­fire, be­cause they risk be­com­ing real es­tate bub­bles.

It is not likely that those towns fea­tur­ing cloud com­put­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will all sur­vive and pros­per, given their lack of sus­tain­able fi­nanc­ing and orig­i­nal­ity.

The rise of Sil­i­con Val­ley and other such ar­eas is due to many rea­sons, but the par­tic­i­pa­tion of ir­re­spon­si­ble prop­erty de­vel­op­ers and fund-chas­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments are def­i­nitely not among them.

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