Category Archives: Shanghai

Urban vegetable retail in China: the example of Shanghai

Zhang, Qian Forrest and Zi Pan (2013). The transformation of urban vegetable retail in China : wet markets, supermarkets, and informal markets in Shanghai. Journal of contemporary Asia p.1-22.


The state-monopolised system of vegetable retail in socialist urban China has been transformed into a market-based system run by profit-driven actors. Publicly-owned wet markets not only declined in number after the state relegated its construction to market forces, but were also thoroughly privatised, becoming venues of capital accumulation for the market operators now controlling these properties. Self-employed migrant families replaced salaried state employees in the labour force. Governments’ increased control over urban public space reduced the room for informal markets, exacerbating the scarcity of vegetable retail space. Fragmentation in the production and wholesale systems restricted modern supermarkets’ ability to establish streamlined supply chains and made them less competitive than wet markets. The transformation of urban vegetable retail documented here shows both the advance that capital has made in re-shaping China’s agrifood system and the constraints that China’s socialist institutions impose on it. Shanghai’s experience also shows that the relative competitiveness of various retail formats is shaped by the state’s intervention in building market infrastructure and institutions.


Monique Abud

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

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Chinese cities and colonial heritage preservation

Colonial villa in Shanghai, Goulard Sébastien

All Chinese cities do not preserve their architectural heritage in the same way. Many Chinese coastal cities were under Western influence, with the Unequal Treaties, from the second half of the 19th century to the end of WW2. The foreign presence was reflected in the introduction of Western architecture. Europeans imported their way of life into the legations and concessions, including their own style of buildings.  These buildings were erected to symbolize the power of their nation or company, as illustrated on Shanghai’s Bund. Europeans also built villas to re-create a familiar environment. Many of these buildings were destroyed during the war against Japan, others disappeared with the Cultural Revolution, but the major threat to their longevity has been the massive urbanisation and land development of the last twenty years.

These buildings, usually in prime locations, have been easy prey for land developers who wish to modernize and densify city centres. Local urban planners have also chosen to “erase” the symbols of foreign domination and create new landmarks of China’s new prosperity. However local authorities have been gradually paying more attention to this heritage and its possible impact on tourism and city promotion.  

In an article published in 2007, Raymond Wong (CUHK) studied the preservation of colonial heritage in three Chinese cities: Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong1

  • In Shanghai, several hundred building have been put under protection since 1989. Priority was given to outstanding buildings with historical value. However, traditional residential units had to give way to modern construction programmes.  Despite these transformations, Wong feels that Shanghai has managed to preserve a very wealthy architectural heritage.
  • From a historical point of view, Guangzhou was the main gate for foreign traders in China. This role is reflected in her local architecture. In the 19th century, both the French and the British population increased in Guangzhou and they erected buildings in the inner city. Guangzhou was also an emigration centre, and when the Cantonese came back home, many of them adopted both Chinese and Western architectural styles for their homes.This heritage faced serious threats with the implementation of economic reforms in Guangdong in the 1980s. Many traditional residential units were removed or redeveloped.Since 1998, the local government has developed new plans to preserve historical legacies, but unlike in Shanghai, heritage preservation policies in Guangzhou have not been effective.
  • The case of Hong Kong is different, because of two particularities. First, Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, and because of her political stability and economic prosperity, the city attracted many immigrants. Secondly, Hong Kong is a very small territory and Hong Kong Island, where the British first settled, has a very “hilly” environment. Because of land scarcity, most of the original colonial buildings have been replaced. The few remaining ones are mainly administrative buildings.

In Hong Kong, local administrations did not have the right to prevent land developers from removing old private buildings. Preservation was mainly the result of public pressure and grassroots organisations protesting against land development programmes.

Wong lists some issues that prevent Chinese cities from preserving their architectural heritage. Because of rapid economic growth and the improvement of infrastructures, many historical buildings have to make room for new buildings. According to the author, there is no single remedy for this. Cities will learn to preserve their heritage only through time and experience. However, it could be argued that this problem needs to be addressed quickly before the heritage of Chinese cities disappears. It is obvious that every historical legacy cannot be preserved; otherwise a city will become static and take on the aspect of a museum. So, two main questions arise: which building should be preserved and who should decide on this subject?  When we look at Hong Kong, we can see that market forces alone are not effective for the preservation of historic buildings. Locals, historians and urban planners should all work together to preserve this part of their heritage. Inhabitants should be involved in the decision-making process, since what they may want to preserve may not have any “architectural value”, but still represents the soul of their district, and so strengthens their city’s identity. 

  1. Wong R. (2007), Preservation of Traditional Buildings with Heritage Value in Asian Cities with Colonial Background – Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong Cases, Housing Science, no.4, vol. 31, []

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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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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The Shanghai alleyway house: A vanishing urban vernacular

Bracken, Gregory. (2013) The Shanghai alleyway house : A vanishing urban vernacular. London : Routledge. 200 p. (Contemporary China series). ISBN 978-0-415-64071-8.

As a nineteenth-century commercial development, the alleyway house was a hybrid of the traditional Chinese courtyard house and the Western terraced one. Unique to Shanghai, the alleyway house was a space where the blurring of the boundaries of public and private life created a vibrant social community. In recent years however, the city’s rapid redevelopment has meant that the alleyway house is being destroyed, and this book seeks to understand it in terms of the lifestyle it engendered for those who called it home, whilst also looking to the future of the alleyway house.

Based on groundwork research, this book examines the Shanghai alleyway house in light of the complex history of the city, especially during the colonial era. It also explores the history of urban form (and governance) in China in order to question how the Eastern and Western traditions combined in Shanghai to produce a unique and dynamic housing typology. Construction techniques and different alleyway house sub-genres are also examined, as is the way of life they engendered, including some of the side-effects of alleyway house life, such as the literature it inspired, both foreign and local, as well as the portrayal of life in the laneways as seen in films set in the city. The book ends by posing the question: what next for the alleyway house? Does it even have a future, and if so, what lies ahead for this rapidly vanishing typology?

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Monique Abud

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

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Climate change: Chinese cities at risk

Sea level rise threatens Haikou harbour

Could Chinese cities be threatened by climate change?

In September 2012, Deborah  Balk, Mark Montgomery and Zhen Liu published an interesting paper on the hazards of climate change in Asia1 . The authors argue that because of increasing urbanisation and global warming, Asian megalopolises will be threatened by natural hazards. Coastal areas are, of course, the most exposed to the dangers of global warming and the resultant sea level rise, but riverside cities and dry land regions may also face threats such as floods or, on the contrary, water shortage.

According to this study, Asian cities will be more exposed to danger in the event of floods than cities on other continents because of their higher density, their large population and their rapid development.

In China, coastal cities such as Shanghai and Tianjin are especially vulnerable to flood threats and other natural hazards. These cities have largely benefited from economic and political reforms. Millions of migrants have flocked to these coastal cities. New buildings and infrastructures have been created on coastal China, and these cities have turned into successful economic centres. However, this study shows that their inhabitants are at risk. In the case of Shanghai, the risk of flooding is due to several factors.

  • The first problem is sea level rise. It has been shown that global warming can affect sea level rise, but other factors related to urbanisation may also increase the risk of sea level rise.
  • The intense urbanisation China has experienced has led to a reduction of natural buffers (such as wetlands), and has accelerated land erosion.
  • Shanghai, like Guangzhou, is located in a delta region. Rapid urbanization and industrialisation (construction of dams and reservoirs) along the Yangtze River has reduced the sediment load in Chinese river deltas2.
  • The problem of sea level rise is intensified by the increasing weight of Shanghai. The densification of the city and the development of buildings and infrastructures have turned Shanghai into a “heavy” city built on sediment. Shanghai is not yet subsiding like Bangkok, but there is a very real risk of this happening.
  • Another point that is highlighted in this study is that Asian megalopolises lack green zones. As a consequence, cities have become impermeable. In the event of storms, heavy rains or flood, water runoff can barely be absorbed. 

What precautions should be taken by China to limit the dangers of flooding?

In our opinion, China should intervene at three different levels.

  • First, the pollution issue needs to be seriously addressed by the Chinese central government. As climate change and global warming are partly caused by human activities and especially by carbon dioxide emissions, China should adopt cleaner and “greener” policies regarding energy, industrial production and transportation. By not taking the necessary measures, China has increased her citizens’ exposure to natural disasters, including sea level rise. Although carbon dioxide emissions per capita still have not reached Western levels, Beijing should still make a commitment to reduce its emissions and should put pressure on other countries to do likewise. It is time for China – the number two world power – to take the lead on environmental issues at the international level.
  • The threat of natural hazards should be more often taken into consideration when planning construction projects. More green areas, including urban parks and preservation zones, should be created. Wetlands should be preserved, or even restored, so that they can fulfil their natural function of reservoirs to reduce the threat of flooding. 
  • On the local level, more investments are required in risk prevention infrastructures, such as levees.   

The disaster that occurred in New Orleans in 2005 could, unfortunately, happen in many Asian cities, which are even more subject to flooding because of their rapid rate of urbanisation.  Urban planning should not address only human and economic needs, but also environmental issues.

  1. Balk, D., Montgomery, M and Zhen L (2012, September 22nd) Urbanization and climate change hazards in Asia, Princeton University, accessed Ferbruary 21st 2013 []
  2. Saito, Y., Chaimanee,  N., 2, Jarupongsakul, T. & Syvitski, J. (2007). Shrinking Megadeltas in Asia: Sea-level Rise and Sediment Reduction Impacts from Case Study of the Chao Phraya Delta. National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology., accessed February 21st 2013 []

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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Too much pollution for global aspirations

Shanghai landmark, Goulard SébastienAir pollution in Beijing has been the subject of wide discussion recently because of the unprecedented low quality of the air. The authorities have asked the population to keep their outdoor activities to a minimum, but more consistent policies need to be implemented. This is not the first time Chinese cities have been blamed for their poor air quality, but this issue has become recurrent and poses a threat to the global ambitions of Chinese cities.

The causes of pollution are many: the continuing use of coal as a major source of energy, the increasing car traffic, the presence of factories near cities and insufficient pollution regulations and enforcement. 

The authorities should take this problem seriously. Pollution not only affects the health of urban inhabitants – which is already a major reason to find a solution – but it also limits the capacity for China’s large cities to become global. Chinese cities are now facing the challenge of becoming post-modern, and evolving from industrial centres to service-oriented hubs, following the modal of global cities.

Global cities are not, of course, immune to the problem of pollution. In 2006, rampant forest fires in Indonesia created high pollution levels in Singapore. Since then, the city-state has regularly suffered from smoky haze, especially during the monsoon season. This causes economic losses for Singapore in the form of medical treatments, lost workdays and a weakened tourism and airline sector1 However, unlike Singapore, which has no control over Indonesian forests, China can take the necessary decisions to reduce pollution.

Pollution could reduce the potential of the contribution of infrastructures in Chinese cities towards their transformation into global hubs. As a result of air pollution and poor visibility, several flights were cancelled last month at Beijing Capital airport. If such incidents occur regularly, large Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai will lose their infrastructural lead in China and Asia. Their transportation infrastructures will not be considered reliable, and international companies will prefer to move their activities to cleaner and less risky cities. Businesses need stability for their development and pollution impedes this development.

Global cities are also characterized by their attractiveness to visitors and workers. New York, London and Hong Kong are pulsing cities that tourists enjoy visiting. However, pollution can damage a city’s image. China is well aware of the fact that pollution puts off tourists; that is why restrictive policies were implemented during the Olympic Games, so that international visitors could enjoy the blue sky in Beijing. If China does not solve her pollution problem, Chinese cities will have little chance of becoming international tourism hotspots.

Another important issue related to air pollution is the matter of the workplace for the middles classes. Knowledge workers are not static. Cities have entered a new, postmodern era where the mobility of knowledge workers is very high. As a consequence, cities need to attract the brightest workers in order to become truly global. Safety, education, entertainment and environment are key elements for attracting and retaining company headquarters and high-income employees. How can Beijing expect to attract Chinese and international talent if the “welcome package” includes grey skies and the prospect of lung cancer?

Although stricter environmental regulations may reduce economic growth in the short term and increase discontent among the new consumer classes, green policies would help China’s leading cities to develop their services sector and thus increase their competitiveness as global cities.  

  1. HON Priscilla (2006). “Singapore. In GLOVER David & JESSUP Timothy (eds).  Indonesia’s fire and hae; the cost of catastrophe. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies []

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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The extension of high-speed railways and the possible consequences for urbanisation

High-speed train in Shanghai, Goulard Sébastien

On December 25, 2012 China inaugurated a new high speed railway (HSR) connecting Beijing and Guangzhou.  The journey between the two cities will now take only about eight hours.

In less than ten years, China has built the world’s largest HSR network, and new lines will be opened by 2020. This infrastructure is necessary in order to meet the requirements of China’s economic growth and to better control the development of transportation. High-speed railways will also provide a cleaner alternative to air transportation and motorways.

Modernizing the Chinese railway system has been a great technical and financial challenge, for several reasons:

  • Beijing had to deal with several issues in the process of extending the HSR. First, several fatal accidents occurred. A major accident occurred in Wenzhou in July 2011, caused by the collision of two high-speed trains.
  • After having first imported foreign techniques, China developed her own know-how and is now considering exporting her high-speed trains to foreign countries.
  • Huge amounts of money have been invested in this infrastructure and the programme may never be profitable because of high maintenance costs. This has already been observed in other countries.
  • This public investment and its hidden management have favoured corruption. Several cases of corruption involving high-placed politicians have come to light1.
  • Last of all, considering the high price of tickets, high-speed trains may not prove to be competitive.

High-speed trains and city connections

High speed trains still cannot compete with airlines in terms of travel time for long journeys. Whereas a Beijing to Guangzhou flight takes about two hours, a high speed train covers the same distance in five hours, for roughly the same price. Moreover, because these new railway lines require purpose-built facilities, in most cases new stations have been built outside the city centres, with the result that it takes more time for passengers to travel to the new high-speed train stations.

The consequences of HRS for metropolises and stop-over second tier cities are very important, and may have a strong impact on China’s urban trends. First, high-speed train services may serve to strengthen cooperation at the regional level. With HSR, Suzhou is only thirty minutes away from Shanghai. New employment and migration patterns may emerge as a consequence of the extension of HSR. Medium-size cities surrounding large megalopolises like Shanghai or Beijing may become satellites. Or, on the contrary, these second-tier cities may find themselves empowered as a result of their proximity to global hubs. Research conducted in Europe, where HSR has been developing since the 80’s, shows that the creation of HSR lines gives more opportunities to peripheral, medium-size cities2.

HSR may also encourage the development of second tier cities, especially in Central China.  Fast connections to Beijing and Guangzhou may revitalise cities in the hinterland. With lower real estate prices, companies may find opportunities to make investments.

The main problem for marginal areas is their remoteness; with HSR lines, Central China will be anchored to the major cities and benefit from these new links.

However, in order to fully optimize the HSR infrastructure, there needs to be greater cooperation between Chinese cities, so that no city lags behind. As Brunello, Hung and Bunker have pointed out, connecting facilities should be improved so that HSR stations become hubs offering fast connections to subways, buses and flights. They also stress that HSR stations and their periphery should be priority areas for land development, so that HSR services may be more integrated into the city environment.

Furthermore, HSR projects should not neglect small cities. For financial reasons, HSR networks cannot be extended to every city; however, small and medium size cities should benefit from HSR networks through the creation of shared infrastructures and the expansion of traditional connecting routes (ex:  light trains) to HSR stopovers. HSR infrastructures should be co-managed by regional authorities, so that local transportation needs are better satisfied.

If Beijing succeeds in making HSR stations regional transportation hubs, China’s HSR network may transform urban trends, and reduce regional inequalities. The investments made in building this network are impressive, and the programme may not become financially profitable, but it will surely help address some of the key issues in China’s urbanisation, such as regional disparities and pollution.  It is for this reason that these huge investments are worthwhile.

  1. J. Kaiman (2012, December 26). China opens world’s longest high-speed railway line. The Guardian Retrieved ( []
  2. Georges Gac (1990). Effets  socio-économiques du TGV A au Mans: restructuration du centre, conséquence la plus immédiate. OEST []

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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The Transition to producer services in China: opportunities and obstacles

Daniels, P W (2012) The transition to producer services in China: opportunities and obstacles, in Anthony G O Yeh and Fiona F Yang (eds.) Producer Services in China: Economic and Urban Development. London: Routledge, pp.  29-51.

While knowledge and innovation transfer via foreign producer services with a presence in China (attracted by the major inward invested manufacturing activities) will be important, a transition towards domestic supply of producer services attuned to the needs and expectations of domestic, and ultimately international, business clients will be important.  China is also investing in major domestic infrastructure projects, including schools, hospitals, roads and railways that also stimulate demand for an improved supply of high quality, innovative producer services (logistics, marketing, design, construction, financial, business and professional) that are suitably distributed across the Chinese city system.  But this is not without difficulties.

The location of most of the leading and economically diverse cities in the coastal regions has left many of the large cities in the inland provinces under-provided with producer services.  Quasi-marketization has created challenges in so far as local and provincial governments, together with the large state-owned enterprises (SOEs), exercise significant influence on the patterns and priorities for investment in cities and regions.  Apart from obvious exceptions such as Shanghai, the more rapid and visible returns from supporting the growth and development of manufacturing eclipse any enthusiasm for initiatives promoting the development of producer services are muted since they are less tangible, difficult in many cases to measure, and the benefits may only be evident over the medium or long term (say five or more years).  While the policy commitment to the development of producer services in progressive cities like Shanghai is commendable it is far from the norm and in any event tends to be couched in terms of physical development (such as dedicated zones for various types of services) rather than ‘softer’ regulatory or other instruments tailored to the needs of producer services.

There remain as many questions as there are answers about the most efficient and effective ways to ‘bring on’ the development of producer services in China in ways that enhance the national economy in general and cities economies in particular.  The agenda for some recently commenced research on urbanization, economic development and producer services as part of a four-year EU-China Collaborative Research Programme (URBACHINA) is outlined.

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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Spatial practice of socialist city: worker’s new village in Shanghai 1949-1978

« Shehui zhuyi chengshi de kongjian shijian – Shanghai gongren xincun 1949-1978 社会主义城市的空间实践——上海工人新村 (1949-1978) »  Renwen dili 2011 26 n°3, p.35-40.

Disponible sur CNKI:

This article focalizes on a history of Shanghai worker’s village built in year 1949-78. On one side, the state industrialization policy that “inland is superior to littoral” and “elimination of regional imbalance in development” confined the state fiscal input to Shanghai for a long period. The local fiscal policy also sacrificed residential needs to pursue a rapid growth in industrialization. Thus, the non-production investment, such as housing, kept in a relatively low level in the whole thirty years. On the other side, with the principle of “serving for production, serving for worker”, worker’s village had shown up as the critical urban practice for the new regime to achieve their political wills during the socialism period. The layout and the standard housing of the worker village contributed a new life style of “taking factory as home”.

本文以”历史—空间—社会”的三重视角对1949—1978年 上海工人新村的”缘起”、”建造过程”以及”对城市空间和社会生活的影响”进行了分析。揭示了受国家财政和地方工业化政策的影响,带有”社会主义理想” 和”为工人阶级服务”双重目标的新村计划在实施过程中出现了明显的”非连续性”特征。从数量上看,三十年(1949—1978)的新村建造没能真正的解决 上海工人阶级的住房困难;另一方面,作为社会主义时期上海城市改造的主体,工人新村也成为落实新政权的政治意愿、经济政策和社会理想的重要手段,新村的大 规模建造对城市空间结构与社会生活也产生着持续而深刻的影响。


Jacqueline Nivard

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

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The Chinese healthcare system

Ping Lei and Alain Jolibert, A three-model comparison of the relationship between quality, satisfaction and loyalty: an empirical study of the Chinese healthcare system, BioMedCentral Health Serv Res. 2012; 12: 436. Published online 2012 November 30. doi:  10.1186/1472-6963-12-43

China’s healthcare system is on the brink of major reform, stimulated by a multitude of forces that are driving this change. Since 2002, the Chinese government has primarily allocated its healthcare funding to graduates of medical schools and public hospitals in major cities in an effort to improve the quality of patient care. The strong government commitment to improving health services and patient satisfaction was further emphasized after the 2003 SARS outbreak, when in 2005 the “Year of Hospital Management Reform” was declared, with the key theme of “the patient comes first, improve the quality of service.” In this way, the Chinese government articulated its pledge to the healthcare sector and emphasized the need for public and private sector cooperation . These actions demonstrate the government’s commitment to developing hospital management and organization in a patient-centered manner to increase patient satisfaction.

Simultaneous with the government’s new commitment, Chinese patients are becoming more knowledgeable and active in “managing” their healthcare experiences. In major cities, there are increasing numbers of individuals who are taking “responsibility” for their healthcare. There is increasing demand for improved hospital-based services, patients are becoming better informed, and, in turn, more demanding about the type and quality of health services they expect to receive. The government has, in fact, already encouraged the “voice of the consumer” by soliciting patient feedback in evaluating hospitals to help improve the level of patient care.

Because of these circumstances, Chinese hospitals are now operating in a new, complex and uncertain environment. The current transformation from a Communist system to a competitive healthcare market is obliging hospital providers to deal with decreased funding and increased competition. Facing this situation, providers must learn to cost-effectively satisfy the needs and desires of their patients. As a result, providers and policymakers are urgently seeking a clear understanding of the quality, satisfaction and loyalty intention relationship in the Chinese healthcare market.

Many researchers have studied patient satisfaction in Western healthcare services, and there are some that have studied patient satisfaction in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, to date no research has focused on mainland China’s healthcare market.

Over the past 30 years, a large number of consumer behavior studies have explored the links between quality, consumer satisfaction and loyalty in Western cultures, yet no consensus has been reached. Three theoretical models can, however, be found in the literature.

Faced with three contradictory theoretical models, it is challenging to determine which model is most appropriate to utilize in studying healthcare services in mainland China. The purpose of this study is to analyze the relationships between perceived quality, patient satisfaction and loyalty intentions in mainland China’s healthcare system.

The empirical data for this study was collected in Shanghai (eastern China), where patients have substantial freedom to choose their medical providers. Read more

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Christmas in Shanghai

“Dazzling winter wonderland” at IFC Mall

Developed by the Hong Kong Group Sun Hung Kai Properties and designed by Cesar Pelli, the IFC Shanghai International Financial Center is one of the latest additions to the heart of the Lujiazui Financial and Trade Zone. It comprises two office towers, a shopping mall, and a 5-star hotel. As its sister commercial development in Hong Kong, the shopping mall is decorated with Christmas motifs during these days creating an atmosphere for what promises to be a “tasteful Christmas experience”.




Miguel Elosua

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

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Co-habitation of three generations in a migrant family in Shanghai

Housing and family: intergenerational relationships in the residential strategy

A case study of the co-habitation of three generations in a migrant family in Shanghai

  • « Zhufang yu jiating : juzhu celuo zhong de daiji guanxi – shanghai yimin jiating sandai tongju gean diaocha 住房与家庭:居住策略中的代际关系 – 上海移民家庭三代同居个案调查», Qinnian yanjiu,  2011 n°6, p.33-42.

Full text available in Chinese  on the CNKI :

 The residential strategies, including the motivation of house – purchasing, the selection of house-types and the arrangement of residential space, are all closely related to the family relationships. On one side, the use of residential space reflects the conflicts and compromises among family members. On the other side, it also contributes to shape the family relations. Through observations and interviews with family Li (a migrant family of three generations in Shanghai), this paper examines the role of housing in defining the intergenerational relationships from the two angles of residential track and space practice. It also attempts to disclose in-depth family relationships and its evolution behind the space of everyday life.

购房的动机、住宅类型的选择和住宅空间的安排等居住策略与家庭 关系紧密相关。对住宅空间的使用一方面体现着家庭成员的冲突和妥协,另一方面也形塑着家庭内部的人际关系。本文通过对上海移民李先生一家三代同居生活的观 察和访谈,从居住轨迹和空间实践两个角度来考察住房在代际关系形成过程中所扮演的角色,并揭示住宅空间背后深层次的家庭关系及其变化。

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Satellite cities, a good planning tool?

“Better City, Better Life”: This was the theme of the Shanghai World Expo 2010. The main issue raised was how to create better urban living environment and a better society. With this in mind, one wonders how Shanghai has handled its own urban development, cantered on the “One City, Nine Towns” plan.

In order to alleviate the city centre from the pressures of enormous growth, the new Shanghai Master Plan (1999-2020) has introduced the “1-9-6-6 Model”. A new concept of urban structure was put into place which redefined the hierarchy of the Shanghai area in terms of a three-layered model. The three-layered structure is represented by one city centre oriented towards the service sector, nine decentralized “key cities” that serve as administrative centres (300,000 to 1 000 000 residents) and sixty small towns (50 000 to 150 000 residents)1. Six hundred villages (2000 residents) are also included, completing the “1-9-6-6 Model”. The idea of this plan is to re-house one million people from the city centre in the outlying areas2. Construction in Fengjing (枫泾) new town, Jinshan District, Shanghai, Behar ClaireThis master plan also aims to control the urban sprawl.

Although most of the new towns are now more or less completed, there are plans to build hundreds of thousands of homes and facilities in addition to the present ones. Never before was an urban plan realized on such a huge scale and in such a short time3. Looking at the first results, can we conclude that satellites cities are a good planning tool? One of the first observations that can be made is that there is a striking lack of residents in the new towns. For instance, according to the new Shanghai Master Plan, the  projected population of Chengqiao New Town is 120 000 in 2020  However, there were only a few thousand residents in 20104. There are many reasons for this “ghost town” phenomenon.

First, speculation on new town housing means that low-income Chinese people are unable to afford a flat. The exotic character of the new town architecture, inspired by Western culture, gives the impression that it is a safe investment5. Fearing constant price increases, foreign investors and wealthy Chinese are buying up large amounts of housing.  Additionally, private developers, rather than the local government, are buying land-use rights in new towns. Developers prefer to build luxury apartments instead of proposing a mixed-income housing complex. As a result, there are up to five times as many unoccupied properties as in metropolises of a comparable size in other countries6.

Secondly, new towns, on their own, are not attractive enough when compared to the city centre. Private developers allow the architects a lot of freedom: the director of Atkins Design Studio, Paul Rice, who designed Thames Town, declared: “We had some fun doing this. We broke the rules for south orientation and created a pedestrian-centred town, with a human and intimate scale”(( Ibid,p.120)).

Western conceptions do not really correspond to Chinese standards. In fact, Feng Shui, the Chinese philosophy based on the interaction between man and his living space, is a key component in Chinese construction. According to Feng Shui, the idea is to achieve a harmonization of the flows in a living space and this has to be taken into account during the urban planning phases. It is also important that the building be south-facing. This is not the case in new towns. Moreover, according to the Chinese tradition, buildings enclose the space: this logic of the “self-contained” is in opposition with Western logic, where buildings do not enclose an inner space. New towns are based on Western models, so there is no buffer space to create a gradual transition towards privacy from the outside to the inside.

Finally, there is a striking lack of urban infrastructures, especially public transports. Easy access to the city centre would encourage Chinese people to live in the new towns. Although the construction of an extensive metro system is planned for 2020, the original idea was that new residents would work in the new towns. So many of the metro connections are going to be completed so late that commuters are reluctant to settle in new towns, as living there often means that it is necessary to have a car for the daily commute from home to work.

In Problems of megacities and construction of satellite cities – policy suggestions to the  construction of our satellite cities, the author JunYang, compares satellite-cities in Western countries and in China. He also makes some policy suggestions concerning satellite-cities in China, especially for Beijing and Shanghai. The main idea is to provide satellite-cities with every possible means to fulfil their role in reducing the pressure on city centres, including the pressure of population, traffic and housing.  Jun Yang recommends that every satellites city have an industry in order to maintain sustainable economic development. Even though some new towns are specialized in an industry, such as Anting New Town with its automobile manufacturing, it is not the case for all.

The author also maintains that a high-speed transport system should be implemented, to provide a good connection to the city centre. A high-speed railway system seems to be the best solution, as it can handle a high volume of freight, runs at high speed, and is low cost, comfortable and safe, with low pollution7.

Initial findings show that a lot can be done to improve this situation, even if speculation seems hard to control. Another neglected problem concerns the “floating population” (migrant workers without an urban hukou), are not allowed to buy a house in the new towns, and so are either poorly housed by their employer or share a rented accommodation8. This “floating population” cannot take advantage of the new towns and are deprived of the opportunity to improve their standard of living.

The new towns “together form an exciting new laboratory where very different influences are melted”(( Harry Den Hartog (2009) , 4th International Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism , Amsterdam/Delft)) and the coming years will give us the true results of this paradigm shift that is shaking up urban development in Shanghai.

  1. Harry Den Hartog (2010), Shanghai new towns – searching for community and identity in a sprawling metropolis, p.28, Rotterdam, The authors and 010 Publishers []
  2. Ibid []
  3. Harry Den Hartog (2009) , 4th International Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism , Amsterdam/Delft []
  4. Harry Den Hartog (2010), Shanghai new towns – searching for community and identity in a sprawling metropolis, p.128, Rotterdam, The authors and 010 Publishers []
  5. Ibid,p.74 []
  6. Ibid,p.70 []
  7. YANG Jun, Problems of megacities and construction of satellite cities – policy suggestions to the construction of our satellite cities []
  8. Harry Den Hartog (2010), Shanghai new towns – searching for community and identity in a sprawling metropolis, p.74, Rotterdam, The authors and 010 Publishers []

Claire Behar

• Former Data Analyst on the project URBACHINA • Data Science Innovator • Women in Tech Advocate • Speaker

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Land rolling development in Shanghai

Throughout the process of urban development in China, land development is important because the government must use land to obtain financial support and to subsequently improve urban infrastructures. In most places in China there exists a dual system of land ownership between the city and the rural areas: state-owned land and collectively-owned land. This means that land in the cities is owned by the state, and land in the rural and suburban areas is owned by collectives. Therefore, when urban development reaches a certain level, and more land is required, the government first appropriates the collectively-owned land in the rural area and converts it into state owned land to be used for urban construction. More precisely, the government appropriates the collectively-owned land in the rural area and compensates the owners before converting the land into state owned land. Subsequently, the government launches the process of primary land development, which involves investing in the land and developing it before contracting this new urban land to developers. This is commonly known as changing “raw land” into “cultivated land”.1

Primary land development includes land acquisition, land consolidation, and land reserve. Land reserve means that the ownership of land collected by the government is stored in the land reserve centre. These three processes must satisfy the requirements of the indicators for municipal underground infrastructures, as well as the requirements of urban planning, in order to carry out demolition, land levelling, and construction of public facilities in order to meet the land transfer standards. The executive bodies in primary land development are the local gov ernment, or the companies designated by the local government, such as urban investment companies and land reserve institutions. When the process of primary land development is completed, raw land is changed into cultivated land, which can be traded at the land transaction centre. The government holds auctions where developers can bid on land. Since 1994, the Tax Sharing System has been applied to local finances. Because of the Tax Sharing System, the local government cannot receive tax compensation from the central government. Therefore, the local government attempts to raise land prices through auctions to acquire higher land revenue. From the perspective of land developers, it is now possible for them to gain profits from the development of the acquired land. Likewise, the government can use the funds collected through land auctions to improve urban infrastructures.

If we look at the models of land development for the four development zones of Jinqiao, Lujiazui, Waigaoqiao, and Zhangjiang, we see that Shanghai is different from other cities in China. The Pudong New Area government, rather than the Shanghai city government, is in charge of these development zones. Because the Pudong New Area government is responsible for promoting investment and setting up infrastructures with limited financial resources, the government has designed a special model to finance and build the development zones. This land development model is called the “land rolling development model”.

First of all, the Pudong New Area government evaluates the price of rural collectively-owned land, and then pays 30% of the estimated price as the “land pre-acquisition costs” to the rural collectively-owned land owner to convert the land into state-owned land. “Land pre-acquisition costs” convert the land ownership and the land management. Then, the Shanghai Municipal Finance Bureau sets up the Development Zone Company. The fund provided to the company is equal to the estimated price of the rural collectively-owned land. When the Development Zone Company receives the fund, it purchases the development zone land from the Land Authority of Shanghai and signs the land use contract, thus acquiring the right to use the land. Next, the land ownership and the land management are transferred to the Development Zone Company. In this process, the flow of capital between the government and the Development Zone Company is counterbalanced. The land is transferred to the Development Zone Company without payment. In addition, the Development Zone Company may mortgage the land in order to receive loans to be used for the construction of the development zone. With the land loan, the Development Zone Company will need to pay only 70% of the property price to procure full ownership of the land and to develop it.2


The above graph plotted by Chi-Han Ai shows the difference between land development models of most cities in China and that of Shanghai. Please click to zoom in the graph.

This “land rolling development model” enables the Pudong New Area government to raise funds and complete the infrastructure of the development zone. However, this model has some underlying problems. For example, the government focuses on land and real estate development, but neglects industrial development. For the development of the industrial zone, the links between Industrial organizations are an important factor. However, the Chinese government still has room for improvement regarding industrial connections.

  1. Zhu Lingyi (2004) Fuxian zhong di difang fazhan xing guojia? Taibei nèi hu keji yuanqu yu shanghai zhangjianggao keje yuanqu de bijiao yanjiu 浮现中的地方发展型国家? 台北内湖科技园区与上海张江高科技园区的比较研究。Master thesis, National Taiwan University, Taipei. []
  2. Shanghai shi difangzhi bangongshi 上海市地方志办公室, Retrieved from , last accessed 04 December 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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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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