Category Archives: Hangzhou

High-speed rail Oriented New Towns

On August 2013, Shan He (University of Western Australia) presented a paper on the densification of new towns in China at the Resourceful Cities conference held in Berlin1.

In this paper, Shan He looks at the development of the new towns that are emerging next to high-speed rail stations in China (High-speed rail Oriented New Towns, HONT) and the efforts made by local governments to further consolidate these areas. Since the mid 2000s, China has heavily developed high-speed railways. Most of the new stations are located outside city centres, in areas where new towns are developed. In spite of the central government’s mandate to preserve agricultural lands, China’s towns are not suitably dense.

By making a comparison between HONTs in Hangzhou and Tokyo, the author confirms this trend.

This paper identifies several obstacles that prevent the densification of HONTs in China. For one thing, local rail network is not as good in Hangzhou’s HONT: there are fewer metro stations than in Tokyo’s HONT and fewer connections between rail lines. These HONTs fail to become transport nodes. Moreover, transportation within new towns still relies too much on multi-lane roads. Shan He argues that these roads, while planned to ease traffic, only end up consuming large areas that cannot then be used for urban development.

Additionally, the railway terminal and the neighbouring blocks are not properly connected in Hangzhou’s HONT. In the case of Marunouchi (one of Tokyo’s new towns), the railway station is integrated in the new town.

Shan He also stated that urban development in HONT is not adapted to cities with rail infrastructures, using the example of car parks that are too numerous for a town with metro stations;

The author suggests more connections between regional and local rail lines so that HONTs can truly become transportation nodes and thus attract more activity. He also pleads for better planning of these new towns by taking into account the predominance of rail transportation in HONTs.

  1. Shan He (2013). High-density challenge for Chinese new towns  oriented at high-speed rail: a comparison of urban density of station node Area developments between Hangzhou and Tokyo. International RC21 Conference 2013, Resourceful Cities, August 29-31, 2013, Berlin. Retrieved 10 March, 2014, from []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Realizing ‘four comforts’ in the urban fringe of Hangzhou

Wen, Wen (2012) Realizing ‘four comforts’ in the urban fringe : the case of White Horse Lake Eco-creative City Project, Hangzhou, China. International Journal of Cultural Studies. 15(3) pp. 273-285.

This article examines a cultural and creative industries park project – the White Horse Lake Eco-creative City on land outside the urban centre of Hangzhou, China, which uses an imaginary rural lifestyle as its key attraction. By analysing government policies and development plans, and through interviews with initiators, managers and creative practitioners, the article first assesses the geographical position, that is, the impact of locality with regard to both hard and soft infrastructure of the project; it then examines the synergies and tensions embedded in the strategic goals, that is, to build the right city for ‘four comforts’ (siyi, 四宜) – for residence, for business, for travel and for culture. The article concludes that Chinese-style cultural conversion remains locked in a top-down ideological framework, one that rural residents and the new ‘creative class’ are expected to respect.

Full-text on Sage Journals Online (restricted access or purchase article)

Monique Abud

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

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How does residential location motivate daily-life travel behavior?

Petter Næss (2013)1,  How does residential location motivate daily-life travel behavior? The case of Hangzhou Metropolitan Area, China, Progress in Planning Volume 79, January 2013, p. 1–50


Several studies of relationships between urban land use and travel have shown correlations between daily-life travel behavior and the location of the dwelling. However, in order to substantiate that residential location is a (contributory) cause of such differences, we must show the basic mechanisms by which the location of dwellings influences travel behavior. Examples showing the rationales on which people base their frequency of participation in out-of-home activities, the location of these activities, the modes of travel used to reach these locations, and the routes followed make up important elements in this endeavor.

Based on qualitative interviews carried out as part of a comprehensive study of residential location and travel in Hangzhou Metropolitan Area, China, this article seeks to show how various types of rationales for activity participation, location of activities, travel modes and route choice tend to strengthen or weaken aggregate-level relationships between residential location and travel. In particular, the influences of such rationales on the relative importance of residential location close to the main city center and local centers, respectively, will be demonstrated. The tendency of inhabitants in modern cities to emphasize the possibility of choosing among facilities rather than proximity means that the amount of travel is influenced to a higher extent by the location of the residence in relation to concentrations of facilities, rather than the distance to the closest single facility within a category. Daily traveling distances therefore tend to be more influenced by the distance from the dwelling to the city’s main concentration of facilities (usually the inner city) than by its distance to local centers. The same applies to the travel modes chosen, where rationales concerning physical efforts, time-saving and flexibility motivate inner-city dwellers for more frequent use of non-motorized modes and fewer trips by car than among suburbanites.

Full text of the article available online

See also Petter Næss, Urban form, mobility, gender and sustainability – examples from Denmark and China (PPT presentation)

  1. Aalborg University, Denmark []

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Urban history and urban development in China

Xue, Qian. 2013, March 8. Urban history : a knowledge base for urban development. (accessed 9 July 2013).

 Starting from 2013, the Hangzhou Cultural and Historical Research Association will embark on a five year Wuhan Changjiang Bridge, 1957project investigating various aspects of the city’s history, including industrial development, urban construction, transportation development, etc. It is expected to provide knowledge and referential experience for current urban development.

Since the 1980s, China’s rapid urbanization has drawn more and more scholars toward the study of urban history; research on Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan has achieved significant results.

Chinese urban history studies grow fast

According to incomplete statistics, during the period from 1979 to 2010, publications on Chinese urban history totaled more than 2,000 volumes.
Professor Li Changli at the Institute of Modern History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,  said that in the past 20 or more years, the urban development in China has inspired many new topics and subfields among urban historian. Research in the area is blossoming. Particularly in recent years, publications of Chinese urban history have seen greater serialization, covered a broader range of issues and reached a more international audience.

Urban history is a branch of history.  It originated in the 1920s in the west and saw a revival in the 1960s; till 1980s, the subject had only gradually drawn attention from Chinese academia. He Yimin, vice president of the Chinese Urban History Association and director of the Institute of Urban Studies at Sichuan University, noted that China’s social development, urbanization, industrialization and modernization are the driving forces of Urban History Studies. Scholars often take major emerging cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan as original research subjects; today, their research is developing quickly.

Read more on Social Sciences in China Press


Monique Abud

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

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Bringing cycling culture back to China and Taiwan

Zevitz, Elise (2013) Switching gears and bringing cycling culture back to China and Taiwan. The City Fix, March 25 (accessed 8 July 2013).

China is currently experiencing the fastest growth in bike-sharing in the world, with thirty-nine bike-shareBicycle service Hangzhou systems in place, with the latest addition from last month in Aksu, near the the Kyrgyzstan border. At the head of the thirty-nine cities sits Hangzhou, which currently runs the world’s largest bike-sharing program, with over 60,000 bikes in service. That’s 40,000 more than the Vélib bike-sharing program in Paris, France.

Yet, at the same time, bikes have lost the wide appeal they once had in China. “In 1950, as a status symbol, every citizen had to have three things: a watch, a sewing machine, and a bicycle”, says professional fixed gear cyclist, Ines Brunn, who has lived in China since 2004. In the last decade, however, Brunn observes that the bike has become an image of the past and a mode of transport for those who cannot afford cars. However, local governments and their citizens in China and Taiwan are recognizing that more needs to be done to promote cycling as a commuter mode and a recreational activity, beyond implementing more bike-sharing programs.

Read full text on The City Fix



Monique Abud

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

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Cities in Asia: International summer program in architecture

Taught by a diverse group of faculty members from the University of Hong Kong, and speakers from internationally renowned universities and independent research groups, the course offers participants a design studio experience within Asia’s  contexts.

Fundamental to the study of architecture and cities is the question of rapid urbanization and innovation on the multiple fronts of society, culture and the economy. For the purpose of this summer program, the three key cities in east China, the Pearl River Delta and Southeast Asia will serve as platforms for the understanding of such issues, in the current neo-liberal world of urbanization, where international corporations have grown far more powerful than sovereign governments.

Through this course, participants will focus on different architecture and building types that have emerged from the current state of rapid urbanization. These urban building types are unique in the way they resist and subvert, or become mutated or subsumed by the prevailing urban conditions of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. The design and research studio would be based on the examination and re-invention of a number of these building types.

Participants will have the benefit of visiting numerous cities under-going massive change, exploring broad-ranging issues such as identity, migration, cultural production, colonialism, nationalism and globalization through topics in architectural history and theory. This program will include study trips to the cities of Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou and Shenzhen. In support of the design and research studio, a daily lecture and seminar program will further enrich the participants’ knowledge in these fields.

Deadline for registration

  • April 15, 2013


  •  SHA: Jul 5-18, 2013
  • HKG: Jul 19-26, 2013
  • SIN: Jul 27-Aug 2, 2013

Program directors



Monique Abud

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

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Chinese cities and their development strategies: the case of Hangzhou

Hangzhou West lake, China, Goulard Sébastien

Chinese cities are searching for new ways to ensure economic growth for their inhabitants. During the Mao era, central government was in charge of planning regional development. Since the reforms, Chinese cities have gradually been empowered to plan their own development strategies. 

In his study1, Wei focuses on the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang, to examine the urban strategies adopted by local governments in a transitional society.

According to the author, China’s transitional mode has led to the adoption by local governments of growth-oriented strategies, but this model does not appear to be sustainable in the long run.

The first part of this article looks at the transformation of city governments, which Wei qualifies as transitional institutions. Because of decentralisation, marketization and globalisation, the three aspects of transition, growth is the focus of local government planning, thus increasing competition between cities.

The author lists the different urban strategies implemented in Hangzhou. He first studies the importance of tourism in the city and argues that despite its increasing popularity with Chinese and foreign visitors, “Hangzhou has a long way to go to make the city a world-class tourism city”.

The article then looks at the industrial sector in Hangzhou. During the Mao era, priority was given to heavy industry. However, under the reforms, Hanghzou was one of the first cities to open special development zones to host foreign investors. Since the late 90’s, Hangzhou’s local government, like other municipal authorities, has set itself the goal of making the city a high-tech centre through the creation of special high-tech zones. Wei notes, however, that competition in this field among neighbouring cities has been fierce. Another direction pursued by local development policies in Hangzhou is that of education: new campuses have been opened in a district devoted to higher education.

What Wei is trying to show is that all of these projects are designed for special zones or districts that increase land consumption. This phenomenon is also exacerbated by administrative rescaling, with the annexation of rural districts by Hangzhou. Wei emphasises the fact that land development in Chinese cities is institutionally based.

According to Wei, the growth strategy adopted in Hangzhou has not only pushed up land consumption, but has also challenged the city’s sustainability and liveability. Because of the economic and population growth that Hangzhou has experienced since the 80’s, real estate prices have risen and Hangzhou has become one of China’s most expensive cities. Wei claims that this has led to speculation and corruption of local officials.

Wei’s point is that land development has been used intensively by local governments as their main urban policy tool. Urban strategies have also been motivated by the prevalence of land development and the real estate sector in providing financial resources for Chinese cities.

Wei’s article convincingly demonstrates that land development policies in China are the consequence of the transitional aspect of Chinese institutions. As a result, further reforms, such as marketisation, would certainly resolve some of the issues that Chinese cities are facing and reduce land consumption.

We should advocate for more inter-city cooperation. The growth strategy adopted by many Chinese cities, including Hangzhou, has created competition at the regional level; consequently, too many resources, such as land and capital, have been wasted.  


  1. Wei, Y. (2012) Restructuring for growth in urban China: transitional institutions, urban development, and spatial transformation, Habitat International []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Electric mobility in China: a policy review

Tagscherer, Ulrike (2012). Electric mobility in China: a policy review. Fraunhofer ISI discussion papers innovation systems and policy analysis 30, 18 p.

In 2009, the annual car production in China was 13.8 million cars, a year-on-year increase of more than 48% (Sun 2010: 3). In 2010, automobile production reached 18,264,700 units, an increase of 32.4% compared with 2009. China’s share of the global market for car sales amounts to 20%, up from 13% (Sun 2010: 4). China became the biggest car market in the world in 2010 (China Association of Automobile Manufacturers CAAM 2011). Considering the car ownership per capita, there is still a huge development potential for the Chinese car market. And it is exactly this huge development potential which makes analysts believe that China will become the largest market for electric vehicles in the future.
This belief is shared by the Chinese government, and the government has implemented or drafted several different policies and rules to support and speed up the development of electric vehicles. At the highest policy-making level, the Chinese government adopted the development of electric vehicles in its highest priority national plan, the 12thFive-Year Plan (12 FYP 2011-2015). At the same time, the electric vehicle industry has been selected as one of the seven strategic emerging industries by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). This again has also been manifested in the 12 FYP. The overall goals foresee a rapid development of electrification of cars in China and by 2015 the number of electric cars on Chinese streets should reach 1 million.
The following analysis will take a deeper look into the different policies that are behind these developments in order to increase the understanding of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Hence, contributing to an evaluation of the current development in this field is one of the major goals of this working paper.
As in all other countries, there is no single policy dedicated to electric mobility in China today. Yet there are many different policies from different ministries and agencies with different main targets which influence the development of e-mobility or electric vehicles to a certain degree. The following review looks especially at the impact of these different national policies on the development of electric vehicles and tries to analyze the relations between these policies as far as this is possible from an outsider’s perspective.
The current strategy of the Chinese government concerning the development of electric vehicles is supported mainly by three major policy fields: support for R&D, support for the related industry, and support for private and public consumption. The majority of the policies are in fact industrial policies and they have been adopted by the highest levels of government.


Monique Abud

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

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Understanding early adoption and behavioral response to bikesharing in Hangzhou

Shaheen, Susan. (2011). “ Hangzhou public bicycle: understanding early adoption and behavioral response to bikesharing in Hangzhou ”, China . UC Berkeley: Retrieved from:

Over the past 20 years, China has experienced a steady decline in bicycle use. To address this trend, China’s central and local government for urban transportation created the “ Public Transit Priority ” to encourage public transport initiatives. As part of this effort, the Hangzhou government launched “Hangzhou Public Bicycle” in 2008. This service allows members to access a shared fleet of bicycles. As of March 2011, it operated 60,600 bicycles with 2,416 fixed stations in eight core districts.

To understand factors leading to bikesharing adoption and barriers to adoption,the authors conducted an intercept survey in Hangzhou between January and March 2010. Two separate questionnaires were issued to bikesharing members and non-members to identify key differences and similarities between these groups. In total, 806 surveys were completed, including 666 members and 140 non-members. The authors found that bikesharing is capturing modal share from bus transit, walking, autos, and taxis. Approximately 30% of members had incorporated bikesharing into their most common commute. Members indicated that they most frequently used a bikesharing station closest to either home (40%) or work (40%). These modal shifts suggest that bikesharing acts as both a competitor and a complement to existing public transit.Members exhibited a higher rate of auto ownership in comparison to non-members, suggesting that bikesharing is attractive to car owners. Recommendations for improving bikesharing in Hangzhou include: adding stations and real-time bike/parking availability technologies, improving bike maintenance and locking mechanisms, and extending operational hours.

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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