Category Archives: UrbaChina research team

The UrbaChina project (2011-2015): completion and follow-up

The UrbaChina project has come to an end. This EU funded research project started in March 2011 and was completed in February 2015. UrbaChina’s main objective was to determine China’s urbanisation trends for the next 40 years and outline possible future scenarios with reference to concepts of sustainability. To reach this goal, UrbaChina used interdisciplinary methods and proposed a multi-faceted approach to the study of sustainability.

As the coordinator of this project, I found this a very rewarding experience. Working with some 11 leading Chinese and European research institutions and cultivating a network between them was very stimulating. We hope UrbaChina was the first step toward a fruitful cooperation between European and Chinese researchers in urban studies, leading to future cooperation.

During the past four years, the UrbaChina teams conducted several fieldtrips in China, mainly in the four cities selected for the project (Shanghai, Chongqing, Kunming and Huangshan), where we interviewed dozens of urban planners, land developers, scholars and officials at both the central and local levels of government. We also took part in several conferences in China and Europe, and organised several international events; we reviewed articles and endeavoured to inform a broad audience about the latest developments in China’s urbanisation.

Our findings have been shared with the scientific community and stakeholders in China and Europe. Most of our results can be found online.

The UrbaChina blog was launched in October 2012 to disseminate our results and identify the latest news on four specific themes regarding urbanisation in China:

  • Institutional foundations of city creation;
  • Land, property and the urban/rural divide;
  • Environmental and health infrastructures and services;
  • Traditions and modern lifestyles in cities.

The UrbaChina blog team was mainly composed of information specialists (Monique Abud, Jacqueline Nivard), a language editor (Aurélia Martin), Ph.D. students (Sébastien Goulard, Chi-Han Ai (艾之涵), Miguel Elosua,) and two interns Léa Daures and Oriane Pillet.

We carried surveys monitoring on urbanisation, putting a special emphasis on open access. Most of our posts link to articles available free online. In the same spirit, we opened an open archive providing images of the four cities under study in the UrbaChina project: Shanghai, Huangshan city, Chongqing, Kunming on MediHAL and a collection of working papers on HAL. The blog became an important tool for us to share this information effectively, with its newsletter ran by Sebastian Goulard every week.

We hope that our blog has satisfied your interest in urbanisation in China. Since the UrbaChina project is now finished, this blog will no longer be updated, but all posts will remain accessible. The blog will also be kept as an archive at the French National Library.

We would like to thank all our contributors and our readers who have helped keep our blog alive for the last three years. Our gratitude also goes to Open edition, the academic blogs platform, for hosting our blog and for their help, and to the China Centre at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales for its enthusiastic support.

Although this research programme is completed, China’s urbanisation still has many issues to deal with and will still be a hot topic for the next few decades. We will continue our research in other forms.

A new blog dealing with urbanisation topics in China will be launched by the end of the month.

We hope you will still continue to follow and enjoy our content.

François Gipouloux, CNRS, UrbaChina Project Coordinator

UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-10 (March)

The UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-10 (March) is now published. To subscribe to our newsletter please contact us at urbachina-edition@services.cnrs.fr

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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UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-09 (March)

The UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-09 (March) is now published. To subscribe to our newsletter please contact us at urbachina-edition@services.cnrs.fr

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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Still some red dust in Shanghai ?

years of red dustI recently read Qiu Xailong’s “Years of red dust”. This collection of short stories first published in France in 2008 describes daily life in one Lilong of Shanghai named “Red dust”, from 1949 to the mid-2000’s.

By looking at residents’ personal story, we can better understand China’s recent history and the impacts of some events (the Korean war or the Cultural revolution) on people’s daily life. Life in this lilong is not easy and people lack intimacy and  space; they have to endure other residents’ curiosity, but this can also be a place where they can find some friendship.

The last story of this book takes place in 2005. We can wonder if we can still find the “Red dust” lilong in today’s Shanghai. Maybe this place has been developed into a high rise building or a commercial center? But, actually this does not really matter. Because, people have not disappeared. Of course, we may not encounter “Old hunchback Fang” anymore and “ the iron rice bowl” has been broken down. But relations between residents may not have changed that much, inhabitants are still driven by ambition, love, and other feelings.

To me, the main message of this book is that cities are not made of concrete, cement and so on.., but they are made of inhabitants. This is also what I have learned with the UrbaChina programme. Cities do not exist without people, and so urban policies should focus on inhabitants and their well-being,… and policies should be made by inhabitants.

An interview of Qiu Xiaolong is available here.

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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UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-08 (February)

The UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-08 (February) is now published. To subscribe to our newsletter please contact us at urbachina-edition@services.cnrs.fr

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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NDRC’s plan to further high speed rail network in China

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has unveiled new plans to intensify railroad transportation construction, particularly in Western China.
China owns now the largest high-speed rail network in the world. This network is widely used by citizens especially these days, for New Year holidays.
But one can question the financing of such infrastructures. It has been noted that very few high speed rail lines in the world have proved to be profitable. The popular Beijing-Shanghai line has only turned profitable in 20141. But maintenance costs are still very high and can only rise as China labor costs is increasing.
During my studies, I examined the case of high speed railroad in Hainan. This province has the denser network of high speed railroads in China. I found out that this programme was very expensive for the provincial government and so the local government has increased its economic dependency toward the central authorities. They have also relied on intense real estate constructions along the network to finance these infrastructures and this has led to real estate speculation issues.
Although we cannot deny the social benefits of high speed train network, China has to make sure that these unprofitable lines would not become an economic burden.

  1. Lyu Chang (2015). ‘Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line turns profitable in 2014’. China daily, January 27. Retrieved February 22, 2015 from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2015-01/27/content_19414353.htm []

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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Killing Time

Ping Pong

This photo was taken in November 2013 in Nanchuan district, Chongqing. Farmers have been relocated and concentrated in a remote area with little or no public transportation (as of the date when the photo was taken). The concentration of farmers’ homesteads usually takes place in order to optimise the use of arable land as farmers’ homes are scattered throughout the fields and this is an obstacle for the consolidation of arable land now taking place everywhere around the country. Other motivations include the preservation of the threshold of arable land set by the central government by recovering arable land, the improvement of rural infrastructures, and the search of a solution for the problem of the hollow villages (due to the massive migration of young people to the cities, many homesteads remain empty most of the time). A concentration of resources takes place, and farmers are relocated to newly built residential communities (xinxing nongcun shequ – 新型农村社区). Usually, farmers lease the new consolidated land to a cooperative, and some of them continue working the land as employees of the cooperative.

This case is very different. The local government has used the expropriated land in a more lucrative way for its budget, as it has managed to attract private investment (a real estate developer listed in the Hong Kong Stock Market), and develop a tourist town with houses dedicated to the upper-middle class of Chongqing who are in the look for a weekend retreat outside of the metropolitan area. Normally, the law interdicts urban residents to buy rural land but, through the intervention of the visible hand of the government, farmers’ land is expropriated and converted into state land. The miracle is performed. Profits are handsome for the local government, for the real estate developer and, by extension, for all the investors who put their savings into this company, and who will see the dividend payout increase as a result of the difficult-to-match-elsewhere performance of the company. The only ones who won’t make a penny are the original owners of the land.

As a result, the collective economic system is completely wiped out. Farmers will not recuperate their land, except if they buy it at the market price (unattainable after the development of the area). They have a sense of having been cheated. There have been barred from entering the new town, except for the few lucky ones who will be hired by the developer for gardening work. The construction of their new town miles away from the tourist area limits the possibility for entrepreneurism. Youngsters leave their ancestral land to look for a job in the city, and the old ones remain in the new town, which becomes a retirement town. Most of them do not have enough savings for paying the utilities’ bill and need to improvise outdoor kitchens. They live off the remittances from their offspring.

During the Third Plenum of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress held in Beijing in November 2013, the government announced plans to implement reforms regarding farmers’ construction land-use rights. The Chinese leadership finally agreed on the need to equate rural construction land use rights with urban construction land rights under the “same land same rights” principle (tongdi tongquan – 同地同权).1 Would farmers agree to sell their homesteads and be grouped in new residential communities given the choice to transfer their land use rights to whomever they wish?

 

  1. Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to strengthen the important problems posed by the reform (zhonggong zhongyang guanyu quanmian shenhua gaige ruogan zhongda wenti de jueding– 中共中央关于全面深化改革若干重大问题的决定). http://www.hmdjw.gov.cn/article/show-4104.html. Last retrieved December 10, 2013. []

Miguel Elosua

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

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UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-07 (February)

The UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-07 (February) is now published. To subscribe to our newsletter please contact us at urbachina-edition@services.cnrs.fr

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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Shanghai choosing quality over quantity?

Last year, Shanghai’s GDP growth rate reached 7%. Although this figure is impressive according to European standards, it is lower than the national rate of 7.4%

This year, the Shanghai government has decided not to set a growth target. It is the first Chinese city to abandon GDP growth forecasts. The objective of this policy is to switch from growth at all costs to sustainable and innovative development.

More information to be find at: Wildau, G. (2015). Shanghai first major Chinese region to ditch GDP growth target. January 26, 2015, The Financial Times. Retrieved February 14, 2015 from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2c822efc-a51d-11e4-bf11-00144feab7de.html#axzz3Ro8Q8zl9.

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 pride of the family

These photos were taken in December 2013 in Anshun city, Guizhou province. They show two school diplomas granted to the two daughters of a family who finished first and second in their class. The two unframed photos hanged on the bare walls of the living room.

Prize

Prize2

Miguel Elosua

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

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UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-06 (February)

The UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-06 (February) is now published. To subscribe to our newsletter please contact us at urbachina-edition@services.cnrs.fr

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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Flushing again in Ordos ?

SEIWater is a scarce resource, especially in the arid plains of Inner Mongolia.

In 2003, the Stockholm Environment Institute in collaboration with a local district of Ordos started to implement a project of eco-sanitation and tested dry toilets. But this initiative came to an end in 2010.

Arno Rosemarin and Guoyi Han explained in a short article the reasons why this poject was not continued.

Rosemarin, A. and Han, G. (2013, January).  Is urban ecological sanitation possible? Lessons from Erdos, China. Stockholm Environment Institute. Retrieved February 8, 2016 from http://www.sei-international.org/-news-archive/2542?format=pdf.

 

 

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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UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-05 (January)

The UrbaChina Newsletter 2015-05 (January) is now published. To subscribe to our newsletter please contact us at urbachina-edition@services.cnrs.fr

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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Second homes in Hainan (II): social inequalities

The second homes phenomenon not only increases the economic dependency to tourism and real estate sector in Hainan, but also aggravates social inequalities on the island.

In 2013, 40% of all residential real estate transactions were made by non locals. This figure reached 85% in Sanya, the island’s main resort city1. This means that few locals can now afford to buy their home in the southern coast of Hainan. Only wealthy mainlanders can do so.

The Hainanese society has a complex structure, and has long suffered from disparities; second homes may strengthen these inequalities.

Feng Chongyi and David Goodman2 note in the 90’s that the Hainanese society was divided between locals and mainlanders. With Hainan being granted the status of province in 1988, hundred thousand skilled workers flocked from mainland to the island where they were offered high positions in the local administrations and state owned companies.

The development of tourism and second homes in Hainan may deepen these divisions.

According to a study made by Wang, Wei and Li3, Sanya’s population is divided into three main groups that are the local residents (500,000 inhabitants), visitors (100,000) and non local residents  (200 000 inhabitants living in the city several weeks/months per year).

This new population does not only affect real estate prices, but also everyday product prices, this makes locals complain about inflation. The municipal government of Sanya has constantly readjusted the amount of allocation offered to its local residents.Social discontent in Hainan can lead to further tensions between locals and second home owners, and this may make the island’s image less attractive.

Another possible consequence of the second home boom in Hainan is the destruction of local cultural particularisms. With more mainlanders coming to Hainan, the island can lose its “art de vivre”. In the 90’s, one of the consequence of the massive coming of mainlanders to the Hainan was the weakening of Hainanese dialect.

Today, Hainan has for ambition to become a successful tourist destination, but can also do so by offering more than “the sea and sun package”, and so needs to promote its insular culture. And so an equilibirum needs to be found between the settling of second home owners from mainland and the preservation of local culture(s).

 

  1. “85% of Sanya’s residential properties sold to non-islanders”, Hainan government, March 13 2014. Retreived September 20, 2014 from http://en.visithainan.gov.cn/en/lynewsview_2929.htm []
  2. Feng Chongyi and David, S. G. Goodman (1997), “ Hainan: communal politics and the struggle for identity”, in GOODMAN, David S. G. (ed.), China’s provinces in reform : class, community and political culture, London, New York: Routledge []
  3. WANG Fei et al.(2013), “Equalization of public service facilities for tourist cities – case study of Sanya’s downtown public service facilities in the planning process”, ISOCARP []

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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Uxcester Garden City project

David Rudlin of URBED was the winner of the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014, announced in September 2014, with the Uxcester Garden City project:

Vision:  We illustrate how the city of Uxcester could double its size by adding three substantial urban extensions each housing around 50,000 people. These lie within a zone 10km from the city centre and are configured as triangles with only the point touching the edge of the settlement. The farmland around the city is currently not accessible to the public and of little ecological value. The concept is that for every hectare of development another will be given back to the city as accessible public space, forests, lakes country parks etc… Each of these satellite extensions would be served by a tram or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running from the existing mainline station on disused lines and then switching to on-street running to loop through the new neighbourhoods. The housing would be developed incrementally to create space for small developers and self-builders alongside the volume housebuilders in a process that recreates the way that the great estates were built in London.   

Popularity: Extending an existing city solves some problems but creates others. The greatest of these will be the task of winning over the existing community, which is likely to be articulate and honed by years of experience resisting development. We suggest a ‘Social Contract’ that would address the concerns of this community. Rather than a future spent fighting years of ill-planned development, the Garden City would offer the prospect of a clear 40 year vision that accommodates development while minimising its impact. The satellite extensions are planned to minimise their visual impact, to create a green grid of accessible open space and to generate investment in new transport infrastructure and city centre facilities to benefit the whole of the community. The aim is to re-frame the argument by getting cities to bid to be designated as a Garden City as they currently bid for City of Culture. 

Economic Viability and Governance:  In the absence of large scale subsidy the only solution to the economics of the Garden City is what Ebenezer Howard called the ‘unearned increment’. We are proposing a deal for landowners in which they trade a small chance of securing a housing consent on their land, for a guarantee of receiving existing use value plus substantial compensation and a financial stake in the Garden City Trust. We have assumed that the land will be brought at an average cost of £350,000 per hectare, 20 times its current agricultural value but only 15% of its value as housing land. The economics of the scheme are based on these differentials. We have assumed that, by extending an existing town rather than building from scratch we can reduce the infrastructure bill from £80,000 to £60,000 per unit. Even assuming that half of the land acquired is used as open space, this still generates sufficient value to fund this level of infrastructure spending. By selling the sites to developers at a fixed price and providing the infrastructure collectively, a market incentive will be created to invest in the quality of the housing.   

The process would be managed by the Garden City Trust that would be owned jointly by the local councils, central government, the local community and land owners – and their stakes would have a tradable capital value. The Garden City Trust would be vested with the land, would commission masterplanning work and then use the equity of the land to raise a Bond to fund the initial investment in infrastructure. Development would take place on a rolling programme with the early land receipts being reinvested. The experience in Holland suggests that such a rolling programme can procure infrastructure investment three times greater that the value of the initial bond.    

We describe the seven ages of the Garden City Trust from its conception and birth through its infancy and adolescence to maturity, middle age and eventually retirement. Over time the role of the trust will evolve as it moves from the development stage to the management phase where it will be structured to enable the local community to take on the stewardship of their neighbourhoods. Rising values over the life of the project will allow initial investments to be repaid. This is not a new model, it is the modern day equivalent of the great estates like Grosvenor or The Bournville Village Trust. 

Our model addresses the weaknesses in the system that have made it so difficult to match the quality of the schemes we admire on the continent. We have debated as a team whether we are being too ambitious with the size of the settlement we are proposing. However nationally we need to increase housing production by the equivalent of one Milton Keynes every year. We therefore need bold strokes to radically increase the rate at which we are building and Uxcester provides a model to do just this. 

For more information on URBED and the submission, click here: http://www.urbed.coop/wolfson-economic-prize

Miguel Elosua

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

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