Category Archives: Urban communities

Keys to the city

Storper, Michael (2013) Keys to the city : how economics, institutions, social interaction, and politics shape development. Princeton University Press. 288 p. ISBN: 9781400846269

Why do some cities grow economically while others decline? Why do some show sustained economic performance while others cycle up and down? In Keys to the City, Michael Storper, one of the world’s leading economic geographers, looks at why we should consider economic development issues within a regional context–at the level of the city-region–and why urban economies develop unequally. Storper identifies four contexts that shape urban economic development: economic, institutional, innovational, interactional, and political. The book explores how these contexts operate and how they interact, leading to developmental success in some regions and failure in others. Demonstrating that the global economy is increasingly driven by its major cities, the keys to the city are the keys to global development. In his conclusion, Storper specifies eight rules of economic development targeted at policymakers. Keys to the City explains why economists, sociologists, and political scientists should take geography seriously.

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Kunming confronted to the issue of recycled cooking oil

Luo, Chris. “Kunming struggling to deal with ‘gutter oil’”. South China Morning Post. 27 June 2013. [Accessed 27 June 2013]

Kunming, the capital city of China’s Yunnan province, is having problems dealing with recycled cooking oil – often derisively referred to as “gutter oil”. City municipal officials told the Chinese media that the problems with “gutter oil” have existed for centuries.

His comments attracted widespread condemnation from internet users. Some accused city authorities of shirking their responsibilities over the issue.

The use of illegal cooking oil – recycled from waste oil – is rampant in China. And because waste oil contains harmful carcinogens and other pollutants, mainland authorities have been determined to crack down on it for years.

Kunming has a national pilot scheme which converts recycled cooking oil into bio-fuels for vehicles. But the scheme is not working very well, the media also reports […] Read more

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Everyday approaches to food safety in Kunming

Jakob A. Klein (2013). Everyday approaches to food safety in Kunming. The China Quarterly, 214, pp 376-393. DOI: [Access restricted]

The article explores how people in Kunming have interpreted and acted upon food-related environmental health threats, particularly within the contexts of everyday food shopping. It is argued that an increasingly intensified, delocalized food supply system and a state-led emphasis on individual responsibility and choice have produced growing uncertainties about food. However, the article takes issue with the claim that new forms of risk and institutional changes have produced “individualized” responses, arguing that many of the practices Kunmingers have developed to handle food-related risks and their understandings of what constitutes “safe” food have been developed within the frameworks of family ties and regional cuisine. Further, shoppers and purveyors of food have forged new ties of trust and re-emphasized connections between people, food and place. Nevertheless, concerns about the food supply are a source of discontent which is feeding into wider ambivalences towards modernization. This is particularly acute among the economically disadvantaged.

  • Special section: “Dying for development”, The China Quarterly, vol. 214, June 2013. Table of contents (some articles are in free access)
  • Jacob A. Klein


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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中国城市竞争力报告 (2013 版) = Annual Report on Urban Competitiveness

倪鹏飞, 主编 Ni Pengfei, ed. (2013)中国城市竞争力报告 : 11 Zhongguo chengshi jingzhengli baogao. 北京 : 社会科学文献出版社 Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe. 460 p. ISBN: 978-7-5097-4575-5


ZG chengshi过去10年,中国城市在增长方式转变方面收效甚微,同时房价过高、环境恶化、社会问题多发等问题凸显,“城市病”不断加剧。寻求可持续的发展机制和走新型城市化道路成为中国城市当前所面对的迫切问题。本年度报告将“新基准:建设可持续竞争力理想城市”作为研究主题,就是对未来中国城市发展方向的一次追寻和探索。《中国城市竞争力报告No.11》在前十份报告十年研究的基础上,将城市竞争力理论又向前推进了一步,使其理论框架更加清晰,政策含义更加鲜明。首次将城市竞争力明确区分为产出的、当前的和短期的城市综合经济竞争力,城市产业体系竞争力与投入的、可持续的和长期的城市可持续竞争力三个组成部分。城市综合经济竞争力即城市创造价值的能力,体现为城市创造价值的规模、速度和效率,城市可持续竞争力即城市的要素与环境状况,体现为城市在主体素质、当地要素、当地需求、主体联系、公共制度和基础设施六个方面的状况。其中,以构建理想城市为目标,我们提出理想城市应该是以人为本的宜居城市、创业至上的宜商城市、公平包容的和谐城市、环境友好的生态城市、创新驱动的知识城市、城乡一体的全域城市、交流便捷的信息城市和开放多元的文化城市,并从城市可持续竞争力的六个方面提取出关键因素,按照理想城市的这八项特征重新组合,作为其构成成分。然后从这些构成成分出发,设计了可持续竞争力的指标体系。因此,城市可持续竞争力就反映了城市和理想城市的差距与城市不断迈向理想城市的能力。根据城市综合经济竞争力和城市可持续竞争力的指标体系,我们对中国293个城市的综合经济竞争力和287个城市的可持续竞争力进行了分析和比较,发现中国城市总体上在可持续竞争力及其八个方面距理想城市的标准都存在很大差距,每个方面都存在一系列迫切问题有待解决。未来中国城市的发展,必须以建设理想城市为目标,从可持续竞争力的八个方面入手,逐步解决各方面的问题,走新型城市化的可持续发展的道路。



New Benchmark: Constructing the Ideal city with Sustainable Competitiveness” It is a quest to explore the future development directions for cities in China. Based on research in the past ten reports,Annual Report on Urban Competitiveness(No.11)has achieved new progress in urban competitiveness theories with clearer theoretical framework and policy implications. It is the first time we clearly distinguish among the three parts of urban competitiveness,of which urban general economic competitiveness is the output,current and short-term aspect of urban competitiveness; urban industrial system competitiveness and urban sustainable competitiveness are the input,sustainable and long-term aspect of urban competitiveness. Urban general economic competitiveness shows cities’ ability to create value,which is reflected by the scale,speed and efficiency of cities’ value creation activity. Urban sustainable competitiveness is cities’ conditions of factors and environment,which is illustrated from six aspects,including the quality of economic agents,local factors,local demand,local and global connections,social systems and infrastructure. Aimed at building an ideal city,we claim that an ideal city should be people-oriented, livable city,entrepreneurship and business-friendly fair, inclusive, harmonious,environment-friendly,innovation-driven, city,urban-rural integrated,an communication and information friendly,culturally open and diversified. We extract key elements from the six aspects of urban sustainable competitiveness,and recompose them according to the eight characteristics of an ideal city. Then we design the index system of urban sustainable competitiveness. Therefore,a city’s urban sustainable competitiveness reflects the gap between an ideal city and its current state,as well as real cities ability to achieve the ideal. Based on the index system of urban general economic competitiveness and urban sustainable competitiveness,we analyze the urban general economic competitiveness of 293 cities and the urban sustainable competitiveness of 287 cities in China. And we find that there are big gaps between Chinese cities and the ideal city in terms of urban sustainable competitiveness in eight aspects. Each field needs to deal with a series of urgent problems. In the future,in order to build ideal cities and solve these problems effectively,Chinese cities should take the new path of urbanization and achieve sustainable development.


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Undo the discriminatory hukou system to achieve ‘cities of dream’?

1. Chan, Kam Wing. 2013, February 4. Turning China’s cities with invisible walls into cities of dreams. East Asian Forum (accessed 25 April 2013).

2. Chan, Kam Wing. 2013, January 19. China’s hukou system stands in the way of its dream of prosperity. South China Morning Post (accessed 25 April 2013). [Earlier version of 1.]

1. During a widely publicised tour of Shenzhen, China, the new head of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, called for the realisation of the ‘Chinese dream’ — a great national revival.

Shortly after that, the Chinese character meng (dream) was voted ‘character of the year’ in an online poll of 50,000 people.

As China enters the urban age, a critical part of the Chinese dream is the ‘urban dream’: the promotion of urbanisation to generate household consumption to put the economy on a sustainable footing. This would steer China away from its currentexport- and investment-driven growth model, which has long been considered, even by the government, as ‘unbalanced’ and ‘unsustainable’.

Premier-designate Li Keqiang has championed urbanisation for years. Some media pundits are excited by his talk of a new type of urbanisation, though details are scant. Can he do it right and help China reach its urban dream?

Read more

2. Dreams are in vogue in mainland China. During a widely publicised tour of Shenzhen, the new head of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping , called for the realisation of the “Chinese dream” – a great national revival. Right after that, the Chinese character meng (dream) was voted “character of the year” in an online poll of 50,000 people.

The new year also began with a political storm over a censored article dreaming of Chinese constitutional reform. Whether those dreams are more like a fantasy than realistic hope remains to be seen.

Read more


  • Chan, Kam Wing. (1994) Cities with invisible walls : Reinterpreting urbanization in post-1949 China, Oxford university press, 194 p.
  • Chan, Kam Wing and Will Buckingham. (2008) Is China abolishing the hukou system? The China quarterly, 195, pp. 582-606. [Full text here]
  • 陈, 金永. 2013年05月13. 户籍改革路线图. 财新《新世纪》. [Accessed 28 May 2013].
  • 陈, 金永. 2013年06月1.十五年完成户籍改革. 财新《中国改革》. Dowload PDF here.
  • Kam Wing Chan webpage


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Train tickets and Chinese New Year

Unpaid tickets plague railways

2013-1-31 (accessed 31 January 2013)

“With many stressed-out travelers still scrambling for train tickets home for Spring Festival, the Ministry of Railways said Wednesday that huge numbers of tickets booked over the phone and not paid for by the deadline are being put back on sale.
An average of 460,000 tickets from all selling systems had been returned to the ticket pool every day during the first three days of the current travel peak, doubling the number of tickets returned during last year’s travel rush, the People’s Daily reported.
Many travelers who are still hunting for tickets are left wondering why there are so few tickets available one day and then many more are for sale the next”.

Read more on Global Times

China’s railway fears invasion of the ticket snatchers

2013-1-25 (accessed 31 January 2013)

“For the tens of millions of Chinese who will journey back home next month for the Chinese New Year, fighting over the limited supply of train tickets is nothing new. But this year, the fight has moved online, and somewhat controversially.

So-called “ticket snatching” web browser plug-ins have gone viral and become a must-have among Chinese hoping to travel over the New Year holiday. The small programs automatically refresh the website through which train tickets are sold and alerts users when one is available. But although consumers love the convenience, the railways ministry is not so happy with the savvy programmers trying to game their system.

During the Chinese Lunar New Year, which this year falls in February, China’s railway is at its busiest as far-flung family members gather, many for the only time in the whole year. The government estimates that 225m rail journeys will be taken this year, according to state media.

Unfortunately for travellers, demand always exceeds the supply that China’s monopolized railway ministry can provide, and fights over train tickets have never stopped. Because the ministry starts issuing train tickets online on its site,, two days earlier than at train stations, many pin their hopes on the internet.

Typically, travellers have to manually refresh the webpage, sometimes for hours, either right before the time when tickets are meant to be released, or afterwards in hope of finding tickets that have been returned. Tickets for many journeys are sold out within seconds, so although the lucky are able to grab one, the less fortunate get nothing.

Enter the “ticket snatching” plug-in, which has help many to successfully obtain tickets without needing to click refresh, refresh, refresh.

“I want to help people to save time,” says the engineer who invented China’s first such plug-in last Lunar New Year.

However, he soon found that his plug-in had become controversial”.

Read more on beyondbrics

How not to beat the rush for Chinese train tickets

2013-1-22 (accessed 31 January 2013)

The issue also received a great deal of attention on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblog platform similar to Twitter, receiving well over 10,000 comments. Weibo users also rushed to the couple’s defence, with some also expressing frustration with the rigid bureaucracies that allow consumer needs to go unheeded in this, and many other, sectors of China’s economy.

Many users lamented that ticket regulations were too strict, or thought that they needed to be adjusted so that market needs could be met. @一肚子坏水0 wrote, “As long as there exists an immense need among the people, regulations just can’t be too rigid. This [type of service] shouldn’t be attacked, but rather made use of.” @徐亚晶 commented that you can’t “touch or argue with” bureaucratic monopolies.

Others were frustrated that the couple was arrested for providing a service badly needed by some of China’s poorest citizens. @Oover嬌O wrote, “How many migrant workers can get online? … The system has got problems; you can’t blame people when they take advantage of an opportunity!” @移不动联不通2012 asked rhetorically whether the authorities could “tell the difference between a 10 yuan service fee and a scalper ripping customers off? Both sides were perfectly satisfied but the government just had to get involved and screw things up.”

Whether these calls to make train tickets more accessible to China’s migrant workers are heeded by the powers that be, they likely provide cold comfort to Mr Zhong and Ms Mo, who will spend their holidays in detention”.

Read more on The China Daily Mail

One couple tries a solution to China’s train ticket crunch — and gets arrested

2013-1-17 (accessed 31 January 2013)

“So when newly-wed couple Mr. Zhong and Ms. Mo began offering a 10 RMB (about US$1.60) ticket-buying service in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, hundreds of busy migrant workers in the city were only too happy to spring for the fee, which is roughly the price of a bowl of noodles in a typical Guangzhou noodle shop. But on January 9, the couple — who openly advertised their services outside their small shop — were arrested for selling train tickets without a license, which is illegal under Chinese law.

While the authorities were quick to defend the couple’s arrest, saying that strict regulation was necessary to prevent fraud and ticket scalping, many of Mr. Zhong and Ms. Mo’s customers were eager to speak out on their behalf. “They didn’t charge us an exorbitant fee,” a factory worker named Mr. Zhang told Sina News. “A 10 RMB service fee for getting a train ticket is a real deal, why have they been arrested? A round trip to the train station [to buy a ticket] would cost me more than 10 yuan, and I might not even get a ticket.”

Read more on TeaLeafNation


Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed rail line

China began service Wednesday morning on the world’s longest high-speed rail line, covering a distance in eight hours that is about equal to that from New York to Key West, Florida, or from London across Europe to Belgrade.

Bullet trains traveling 300 kilometers an hour, or 186 miles an hour, began regular service between Beijing and Guangzhou, the main metropolis in southeastern China. Older trains still in service on a parallel rail line take 21 hours; Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours.

Completion of the Beijing-Guangzhou route is the latest sign that China has resumed rapid construction on one of the world’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects, a network of four north-south routes and four east-west routes that span the country. Read the full text of the article written by published: December 26, 2012 in the New York Times.

Source: CCTV Video: Last section of Beijing-Guangzhou high speed rail begins test run


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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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