Category Archives: Huangshan

Huangshan / 黄山 by Tauno Tõhk / 陶诺

Photo by Tauno Tõhn. This work is lisenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Photo by Tauno Tõhk. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Huangshan is one of China’s major touristic locations, a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracts millions of visitors annually, and the economy of Huangshan City still relies heavily on this tourism.

In this photo, taken by Tauno Tõhk, we can see the silhouette of a porter climbing through the mist, one of the many who travel up and down the mountain carrying supplies for the hotels and various facilities catering to tourists. Although there are many cable cars going up the mountain, these are for visitors, to experience new views of the beautiful landscape.

See more photos at Tauno Tõhk’s Flickr or his blog (in Estonian).

Aurélia Martin

Chargée de communications et des médias pour l'UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS)

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Urbachina’s WP5 workshop at LSE


Stephan Feuchwang, leader of Urbachina’s work package 5 “Urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles” organised a workshop at the London School of Economics and Political Science on 25 and 26 September. During the workshop, the researchers from this team (Zhang Hui, Luo Pan, Wang Xiaoxia, Jude Howell, Paula Morais, and Renate Krieg) shared their findings for discussion and comparison not only with each other, but also with our two scientific advisers who have vast research experience in urban life and planning in China, Dan Abramson and David Bray, and with a number of others who have conducted research on urban life and governance in China and other parts of the world, including Europe.

The task of this work package on ‘urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles’ has been to investigate how new municipal institutions interact with residents, who bring to their urban relocation ways of organising themselves and improvise new ones. The focal topics were urban government, self-government and social sustainability.

Field research was conducted between March 2012 and April 2014 in the four cities selected by the UrbaChina consortium: the two large cities of Shanghai and Chongqing, and the two medium sized cities of Kunming and Huangshan. It is the most extensive systematic research on urban communities, as well as the most recent to date. One of the main results has been the deconstruction of the very conception of community, as a policy concept and an instrument of governance.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Working paper UrbaChina no.2 now online

The UrbaChina team is pleased to announce the publication of the 2nd UrbaChina working paper entitled “Urbanisation and changes in the sectoral structure of economic development: the scale of the manufacturing sector in Chinese cities and the shift towards service industry“.

This paper, edited by prof. Peter W. Daniels (UoB-SERU) and prof. Ni Pengfei (CASS-IFTE), summarizes progress towards servicification and the rationale for undertaking more research that will deepen understanding of the actual and potential contribution of producer services. Some recent empirical evidence on the growth trends for producer service in selected cities, including the four case study cities of Shanghai, Huangshan, Chongqing and Kunming, is presented. It is shown that in majority of cities the manufacturing-services gap remains  a significant.

The UrbaChina working paper no.2 is now available on open access at the hal-FP7 UrbaChina paper collection.

Recommended citation: Daniels, P., & Ni, P. (2014). Urbanisation and changes in the sectoral structure of economic development: the scale of the manufacturing sector in Chinese cities and the shift towards service industry (UrbaChina working paper no.2. February 2014). Paris: CNRS. Retrieved 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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Happy New Year from UrbaChina blog


François Gipouloux and the UrbaChina blog team (Monique Abud, Chi-Han Ai, Léa Daurès, Miguel Elosua, Sébastien Goulard, Aurélia Martin and Jacqueline Nivard) wish you a very Happy New Year.

Photo taken by Miguel Elosua in Huangshan (January 2006).

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Anhui Yellow Mountain New Countryside Demonstration Project

World Bank. (2013) Environmental management plan for Huangshan. Vol. 6 of China – Anhui Yellow Mountain New Countryside Demonstration Project : environmental assessment . s.l.] ; [s.n.] (accessed 12 July 2013).


The objectives of the Anhui Yellow Mountain New Countryside Demonstration Project for China are to: (i) submit Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project to the environmental protection departments of corresponding levels and World Bank (WB) respectively, which should be consistent with their respective regulatory requirements. (ii) assist Project Management Office (PMO) in the preparation of all components required in the environmental assessment process of WB (e.g., consultation with affected persons, information disclosure, etc.); and (iii) conduct due diligence according to the relevant requirements of WB for the project or related activities. Negative impacts include: solid waste, traffic, water pollution, noise pollution, health problems, and poor drainage. Mitigation measures include: (1) disposing domestic garbage of construction work by environmental protection department; (2) planning new construction road for connecting road between local village and remote villages; (3) supervising the dietetic hygiene to avoid poisoning accident; (4) clearing up and renovating land after the completion of construction; (5) providing sewage disposal facilities; (6) carrying out labor protection measures of builders and the builders should wear dust mask; and (7) prohibiting construction work during night to avoid noise pollution.



Monique Abud

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

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Farmers carrying rice straw

Farmers carrying rice straw on a pole at the end of September in Chengkan, Huangshan. This photo was taken just before the sale that took place by the rice paddies. Once the sacred grain has been taken away, the straw can be used for thatching, packing, or weaving. Shoulder poles are usually made of bamboo and can bear loads of more than 50 kilos, something that is not uncommon here.

Rice, along with tea, continues to be the main agricultural crop in the Huangshan region. An area of about 40 thousand hectares is used for growing rice (more than 30 per cent of the region’s total area devoted to crops).1

Urbanization poses a threat to the land that is devoted to agriculture. On the one hand, using arable land for land development has been a common feature of the Chinese countryside over the last decades; in Huangshan district alone, the urbanised area has expanded by 60 per cent during the last five years2. On the other hand, migration to cities, leaving the land idle, often results in land impoverishment or loss. To counter this trend, incentives are often proposed to foster intensive farming.

Sufficient food supplies have been an ongoing preoccupation for Beijing. We are often reminded that China counts 22 per cent of the world’s population with only 7 per cent of the arable land, making land all the more precious. This issue played a pivotal role in the creation of the double property system at the outset of the economic reform. However, according to official statistics, in the short period from 1996 to 2004, 6.6 per cent of the total arable was lost3. Even though the Land Management Law was revised in 1998 to restrict the use of arable land for commercial, residential, or industrial purposes (prohibiting the use of collective land for developments, and establishing land appropriations as the standard procedure for this purpose thereafter), official statistics from 2005 show that this law was violated more than a million times4. A satellite surveillance system is now in place to control land misuse.

This clearly reflects the ongoing conflict of interest between central and local governments, the chief concern of the former being to ensure sufficient food supplies and social harmony, while the ultimate goal of the latter is to manage their finances. This conflict of interests, or game as it has been called (boyi)5 , became more apparent after the important fiscal reform of 1994, since local coffers became much more dependent on land development than before. The new tax system left little room for local governments to legitimately increase income and land finance became a secondary source of revenue.

Using cheap land expropriated from local farmers to finance local development has been common in China for more than two decades and is a topic that causes a great deal of public concern (and social unrest). Land is the key to understanding local finance and may be regarded as the main contributor to development during the reform era.

The losers of this so-called game are the farmers. Even though the Constitution attributes ownership of rural land to them, or more precisely to the sui generis collective, which in theory represents their interests, the collective is not allowed to transfer “its land”, to modify its use, or to benefit from an eventual modification carried out by the local government, usually by means of the urban plan. Should this plan include a conversion of agricultural land into urban land, this is done through expropriation, and ownership of the land that has been reclaimed passes from the collective to the State (local government). Inclusion in the urban plan alone is regarded as a declaration of public interest, justifying the appropriation of the land (something that is not uncommon in Western countries either). The land’s inherent value is ready then to be exploited by its new owner. As a result, farmers not only lose their land, but also their “safety net”, becoming what is known as the “three withouts”, namely those without land, without social security and without education. According to official sources, it is estimated that between 1990 and 2002, 66 million farmers lost their land.6

In order to rectify this imbalance and reduce the income gap that the double system of property rights has produced, the legal circulation of land-use rights allocated to farmers by the collective have finally received the green light from the central government. Old phantoms have been surmounted, and the flow of surplus rural labourers towards the cities is no longer an impediment to providing sufficient food supplies and, as was feared for a long time during the 20th century, will not necessarily lead to the concentration of land in the hands of a few. At least it will not present a problem since the collective retains ownership. Moving to small and medium cities is now desirable, specially to those urbanised to finance local development and not to respond to population needs, and farmers are given incentives to become citizens and give up their rural hukou.

However, for this to be fully implemented, the market for land-use rights may need to have more appeal for its participants. The circulation of land-use rights is not new in the Chinese countryside, although before 2008 it was illegal. Most farmers are still reluctant to transfer their land-use rights because they still encounter obstacles that prevent them from becoming first class citizens. Until a proper social protection system is created for them, their roots will be in the countryside. In addition, since land use cannot be modified, there is little margin for increasing its value. Land use restrictions are necessary to avoid the loss of arable land, but what is perhaps needed is for farmers to become the ultimate beneficiaries when their rural land is transformed into urban land. This would not only put an end to the expropriation game, but would also allow farmers to become citizens automatically, entitled to make a fair enough profit to motivate them to break their attachment to the land.

  1. Huangshanshi 2010 nian guomin jingji he shehui fazhan tongji gongbao (Huangshan statistics bulletin on national economy and society development. 2010) 黄山市2010年国民经济和社会发展统计公报 Retrieved from Last accessed 10 December 2012 []
  2. Huangshan zhengfu 1 hao baogao (Government of Huangshan, Report number 1, 2012) 黄山政府1号报告 2012 []
  3. Wang Xiao Gang 王小刚(2009)Zhongguo nongcun tudi zhengshou: wenti, yuanyin ji gaige fangxiang. Lanzhou shangxueyuan xuebao. 5, 2009(Expropriations on China’s rural land: problem, causes, and reform direction. Lanzhou business school journal. 5, 2009) 中国农村土地征收:问题,原因及改革方向。兰州商学院学报。5, 2009 []
  4. He Bochuan (2007) La Crise Agraire en Chine. Etudes Rurales. January-June 2007 []
  5. Zhang Shu Guang 张曙光(2011)Boyi: zhengquan de xifen, shishi he baohu. Beijing: shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe (Game: the segmentation, implementation and protection of land rights. Beijing: Social Sciences Academics Press, 2011 博弈: 政权的细分,实施和保护。北京:社会科学文献出版社 []
  6. Li (2008) Hu Jintao’s Land Reform: Ambition, Ambiguity, and Anxiety. China Leadership Monitor. 27 []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Urban or rural household registration?

Article written by Miguel Elosua and Ai Chi-Han

The ratio of rural to urban population is an important indicator in evaluating the degree of urbanisation in a specific place. For more than two decades, Chinese cities have developed rapidly, increasing the ratio of urbanisation . The Chinese government implements an urban household registration system to control population flow. Under this system, which is known as the hukou [戶口] system, households are divided into “agricultural” and “non-agricultural”, based on the geographical location of the householder’s official residence and on his parents’ occupation. The transfer of household registration has traditionally been tightly restricted. As a result, people cannot transfer their household registration from an agricultural household to a non-agricultural household as they wish. The system has been justified by reasons such as the danger of losing arable land or the problem of overcrowded agglomerations in city suburbs.

However, during the last few decades of rapid economic growth, an increasing number of rural residents have moved to towns to work in manufacturing and services. These workers are commonly known as “migrant workers”. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China’s “Survey Report of Migrant Workers”1 , there were more than 250 million migrant workers in 2011, accounting for nearly 20% of the total population of China.

Since migrant workers do not enjoy first-class citizen status, the question for many years has been whether rural laborers could obtain equal treatment as citizens. The landmark land reform passed by the Third Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2008, aims to gradually suppress the hukou system. As a result, many provinces have already issued measures to put an end to the distinction. The reform emphasizes the role of county-level urban cities in the process of integration of rural and urban areas. To give an illustration of this key role, schools are being closed in some villages so as to force farmers to send their children to schools in nearby cities – and eventually move there as a result. Of particular interest is the case of Chongqing, one of China’s largest cities in terms of population, which established the first rural land trading centre in 2008. The idea behind this centre is to allow farmers to trade their contracted land in exchange for stock shares, which in turn will give them dividends on a yearly basis. This income should ideally be used to rent or buy a house within the city.

More recently, in February 2012, the State Council issued the “Notification to Propel the Household Registration System Reform”2.  The purpose of this reform is to facilitate transfers from agricultural to non-agricultural household registration by helping migrant workers who have acquired steady employment to attain a legitimate and lawful residence in the city and enjoy the benefits of medical and social insurances.

Within the context of these policies, the willingness – or not – of migrant workers to be registered as non-agricultural households has become the main issue for the household registration system reform in China. The exchange is not, however, all that simple anymore. Getting a non-rural hukou is no longer a zero-sum game. As the urban-rural economic gap continues to widen, Chinese rulers have shifted the focus of development to the inland, introducing a number of measures to reduce this gap. These measures include  suppressing the millenary agricultural tax, traditionally known as the imperial tax or huang liang guo shui [皇粮国税],  increasing incentives for agricultural products, as well as  introducing a subsidized social security mechanism. In addition to this, farmers living in the city suburbs have entered into the expropriation game, and are increasingly reluctant to give up their rural hukou if there is a chance that their land might be absorbed by the city in the future. Finally, the world financial crisis has proved that owning land may well be a great advantage for laid-off migrant workers from coastal cities, who can always return home to work their land.

L'agriculteur à Huangshan, Ai Chi-Han

“Flowing without shifting registration” allows a migrant worker in the district of Huangshan to live with flexibility and freedom.

In the district of Huangshan, according to the “Bulletin Statistics of Economic and Social Development of the district of Huangshan”, the agricultural household population was 101,023 in 2011, whereas the non-agriculture household population was 26,868. This means that approximately 74% of the household population still holds a rural hukou. In addition, since one of the main entrances to the Huangshan Scenic Area is located within the district of Huangshan, a large proportion of residents work in the tourism industry, and the presence of migrant workers is obviously strongly felt.

In the course of the fieldwork carried out in this district, we randomly interviewed numerous local migrant workers on the pros and cons of having a rural hukou. Our conclusion was that the majority of them had little interest in giving up their agricultural household registration. The main reason given was that no special benefits were provided for citizens, and that losing farmer status would mean losing agricultural subsidies as well. Additionally, because no corresponding and supporting measures exist between the household registration system and the land system, applying for non agricultural household registration might result in the loss of their original farmland. In Huangshan, this is another obvious drawback, since workers frequently go back home, as the distance between the work place and the home town is usually quite short. In conclusion, migrant workers living in the Huangshan district seem to prefer working in town and simultaneously keeping their agricultural household registration. “Flowing without shifting registration” allows a migrant worker to live with flexibility and freedom.

Under the current household registration system in China, shifting from agricultural to non-agricultural household registration in small tourist towns such as Huangshan might be easy, but changing from non-agricultural to agricultural household registration is nearly impossible. The rural identity is an advantage, because migrant workers can work in town when they are young and return to the farmland when they grow old. In the case of Huangshan, the migrant workers’ reluctance to change their household registration seems contrary to the Chinese government’s attempts to open up non-agricultural household registrations with new regulations.

Although the ratio of rural to urban population may be an important indicator in determining the degree of urbanization in a specific place, the migrant workers’ reluctance to change their household registration shows that a number of reform strategies must be taken to increase urbanisation in some parts of China.

  1. Zhonghua renmin gongheguo guojia tongji ju 中華人民共和國國家統計局 (National bureau of statistics of China), 2012, 2011 Nian woguo nongmin gong diaocha jiance baogao 2011年我国农民工调查监测报告, Retrieved from, last accessed 19 November 2012. []
  2. Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zhongyang renmin zhengfu 中華人民共和國中央人民政府 (The central people’s government of the people’s republic of China) Guowuyuan bangong ting guanyu jiji wentuo tuijin huji guanli zhidu gaige de tongzhi 国务院办公厅关于积极稳妥推进户籍管理制度改革的通知,  Retrieved from, last accessed 19 November 2012. []

Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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Ecological protection or industrial development? Huangshan city’s challenge

Huangshan city is a famous tourist site, featuring rich forest resources and beautiful scenic valley views that attract tourists from across the world. According to the statistics of the National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China1 , the total number of tourists in 2011 was 30,543,900, providing the Huangshan city government with approximately 25.102 billion RMB in revenue linked to the tourist industry. This figure is rising at an average rate of 20% per year. However, if one compares the scenic area of Huangshan to the total city area, the Huangshan scenic area represents only 12% of the whole (the total Hunagshang city area is approximately 9,807 km² and the scenic area is 1,200  km²), which means that a large area of Huangshan city is not a scenic tourist spot. In addition, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Huangshan city was ranked 15th among 16 prefecture-level cities in Anhui Province and amounted to only 10% of the GDP of Hefei city (the GDP for Huangshan city was 37,881 RMB and the GDP for Hefei city was 363,662 RMB). It is therefore clear that Huangshan city must improve its economic output through non-tourist industries.

In 2003, the Huangshan city government proposed “Advice for the Implementation of Industrial and Economic Development,” which indicated that Huangshan city should focus on the development of tourism with the support of industrial development. As a result of industrial development, eight industrial zones are now located in Huangshan city, including the Yixian County Industrial Park (黟县工业园区), the Xiuning Economic Development Zone (休宁经济开发区), and the Huizhou District Economic Park(徽州区经济园). However, the problem of how to protect natural resources and develop industry simultaneously is a challenge for the government of a tourist site such as Huangshan city.

According to the statistics provided by the Huangshan government2 , during the eleventh five-year plan (2006-2010), the total industrial value of Huangshan city increased by approximately 31.7 billion RMB, with an average growth rate of 29.3%. Most industries in Huangshan are in the sectors of electronic information, knitted garments, and the bio-medical industry, with high added value, low pollution, and low emissions. To help integrate tourism and industry, the industrial zones actively produce tourist commodities, such as travel souvenirs and travel supplies, thus complying with the demand of the tourist market. Moreover, the government strictly prohibits high-polluting industries from setting up in Huangshan. According to the Bulletin of environmental quality in Huangshan city3 the current air conditions, quality of drinking water, and noise levels in Huangshan are all satisfactory. However, compared to other prefecture-level cities in Anhui Province, Huangshan city is still at a lower level of development, and is classified as the city with the lowest industrial development in Anhui, which enables Huangshan city to maintain good quality standards for the overall environment. If we compare these results with Hefei, the city with the highest GDP in Anhui, we see that Hefei city’s air quality is judged to be slightly polluted, and the water from Chaohu Lake described as moderately polluted.

Dianchi Lake, François Gipouloux

The water of Dianchi Lake is still undrinkable.

Another example is Kunming city, which is also a city under observation by the Urbachina program. After 1970, the industrial zones and farmland areas around Kunming evacuated waste water into Dianchi Lake, resulting in a significant growth of cyanobacteria and serious eutrophication in Dianchi Lake. Although the Kunming city government has been actively trying to solve the problem of pollution in Dianchi Lake, in order to significantly improve water quality, the lake is still at a pollution level far below the level of drinkable water. Huangshan city, on the other hand, is home to Taiping Lake, which is the largest reservoir in Anhui and possesses good water quality. However, finding a way to actively promote the industrial zones while also protecting the natural ecological environment will be a challenge that the Huangshan city government and other local governments in China will need to deal with.


  1. Zhonghua renmin gongheguo guojia luyou ju 中华人民共和国国家旅游局 (National tourism administration of the people’s republic of china), 2012, Huangshan shi 2012 nian lizheng wancheng jiedai rujing youke 160 wan renci 黄山市2012年力争完成接待入境游客160万人次, Retrieved from , last accessed 13 November 2012. []
  2. Huangshan shi renmin zhengfu xinxi gongkai wang黄山市人民政府信息公开网, 2012, Huangshan shi “shierwu” gongye fazhan guihua黄山市“十二五”工业发展规划, Retrieved from, last accessed 13 November 2012 []
  3. Huangshan shi huanjing baohu ju黄山市环境保护局, 2012, Er ling yiyi nian huangshan shi huanjing zhi liang gongbao 二〇一一年黄山市环境质量公报, , Retrieved from, last accessed 13 November 2012 []

Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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Back to the village

Retour au village, Elosua Miguel

This photo was taken in Cheng Kan, Anhui, on the 28th of September, 2012 at dusk.

The end of September is a period that is particularly busy in this area. Farmers spend the day harvesting rice crops, most of which are sold on the spot. They also hang corn from balconies to dry.  Fields are well irrigated by the Longxi River. The town has an elaborated layout based on the principles of fengshui. It reflects the socioeconomic structure of the Ming and Qing dynasties, when wealthy Hui merchants (Huishang) returned to their hometowns and left their legacy printed on the streets and buildings.

This will probably be the last generation of farmers in the Huang Shan area to cultivate the land in the traditional ways. The city is flourishing again with the arrival of tourists, who flock to the Yellow Mountain, the area’s main attraction. Although the younger generations benefit from the tourist boom, by working in the service sector, this is not the case for the older ones, whose lives are alien to this transformation. Apart from tourism, new regulations dealing with land rights guarantee longer and more stable tenures, thus setting up a framework for the establishment of larger farms and the mechanization of agriculture. The aim of the prohibition concerning land readjustments during the tenure period is to stimulate long-term investments in the land, as well as to increase the number of leases. While this may be a likely scenario in Huang Shan, it may not be the case in other rural areas of China, where there is no tourist industry. In many places, farmers still advocate land readjustments in cases involving changes in demographics, for example, or to recover land leased out after agricultural taxes were abolished and therefore no longer representing a heavy financial burden. This has led to a failure to enforce the law in some cases, causing numerous conflicts and paving the way for new sources of grievance for farmers. If land readjustments hoped to ensure equal land distribution among farmers, the prohibition to readjust during the 30 years of tenure will undoubtedly put an end to this socialist aspiration. Perhaps this situation simply reflects the presence of two different social realities in rural China:  those who benefit from economic development and embrace free market policies, and those who are left behind and still believe in the socialist principles they were brought up with.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Field research in the administration of environmental protection for the Huangshan district





On 25th September, for the Urbachina program, Professor François Gipouloux interviewed Hu Xiaowei, the director of taxes, Cheng Yu,  the director of environmental protection and Jiang Wenxiu, the deputy director of forestry for the district of Huangshan. The topics discussed were socio-economic development, tax policy, environmental protection and urban construction in the Huangshan district.



Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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Interview at the China Center for Urban Development



2012年6月26日上午,中心邱爱军副主任会见了法国国家科学研究中心的吉普鲁(Francios Gipouloux)研究员。

2012年06月26日 15:46   来源:城市中国网


On 26th June, Professor François Gipouloux met the deputy director of the China Center for Urban Development (CCUD), Qiu Aijun, in order to introduce the Urbachina program. This center, established in 1998, is a public institution of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).



Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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