Tag Archives: eco-cities

Fantasy islands

Sze, Julie (2015). Fantasy islands : Chinese dreams and ecological fears in an age of climate crisis. Oakland : University of California press. 248 p. (“A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies”). ISBN : 978-0-5202-8448-7.

11623.110The rise of China and its status as a leading global factory are altering the way people live and consume. At the same time, the world appears wary of the real costs involved. Fantasy Islands probes Chinese, European, and American eco-desire and eco-technological dreams, and examines the solutions they offer to environmental degradation in this age of global economic change.

Uncovering the stories of sites in China, including the plan for a new eco-city called Dongtan on the island of Chongming, mega-suburbs, and the Shanghai World Expo, Julie Sze explores the flows, fears, and fantasies of Pacific Rim politics that shaped them. She charts how climate change discussions align with US fears of China’s ascendancy and the related demise of the American Century, and she considers the motives of financial and political capital for eco-city and ecological development supported by elite power structures in the UK and China. Fantasy Islands shows how ineffectual these efforts are while challenging us to see what a true eco-city would be.


1. Fear, Loathing, Eco-Desire: Chinese Pollution in a Transnational World
2. Changing Chongming
3. Dreaming Green: Engineering the Eco-City
4. It’s a Green World After All? Marketing Nature and Nation in Suburban Shanghai
5. Imagining Ecological Urbanism at the World Expo

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Monique Abud

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

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Measuring eco cities, comparing European and Asian experiences: Rotterdam versus Beijing

Meine Pieter van Dijk (2015). Measuring eco cities, comparing European and Asian experiences: Rotterdam versus Beijing. Asia Europe Journal. 20 p. Published online: 4 January 2015. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10308-014-0405-7

Many cities have taken initiatives to achieve more sustainable development or to become ecological cities. In this paper, ten dimensions are suggested for defining ecological cities and an effort has been made to provide indicators to measure them. Many cities claim to be ecological cities, but there are no non-ambiguous definitions of ecological cities and few efforts have been made to measure to what extent the cities have achieved their goal. This paper considers the efforts of Beijing and Rotterdam to become more eco cities, using these dimensions. What can we learn from these experiences for developing the city of the future? In an illustrative effort to apply the suggested criteria, Rotterdam scored slightly better than Beijing. The latter city is facing more serious environmental problems and is willing to try more innovative solutions, while Rotterdam spends more money on prevention and CO2 reduction.

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Monique Abud

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

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Complementary strategies to eco-cities for a new Chinese urbanization

Luchino, Chiara, Lenci Ruggero (2014), Complementary Strategies to Eco-cities for a New Chinese Urbanization. 中国新城市化之生态城市的互补策略, Department of Civil, Building and Environmental Engineering, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy


The article highlights the need for urban renewal and re-use of the existing housing in Chinese cities, in combination with the current “eco-cities” trend, in view of an expected new urbanization. Buildings’ regeneration would be one of the main factors leading to sustainable growth in China, as happened in Europe.

According to the 2013 ECFIN report, the progressive Chinese Government’s reduction of the restrictions related to the registration permit system (“hukou”, 户口), is likely to be accompanied by an urban migratory wave. Higher

migratory flows would foster an increasing housing demand. This demand would also be influenced by the recent policies adopted in Chinese cities – for example, in Beijing and Shanghai “second child” policies have been implemented.

However, urbanization comes at a cost. China is now in the middle of an environmental crisis with its epicenter in the cities. On the contrary, in the cities’ outskirts, the “eco-cities” are often not economically affordable for the majority and remain frequently uninhabited (“ghost towns”). The current “eco-city” trend is already trying to face pollution with many projects for entire new districts and completely sustainable neighborhoods, sometimes reproductions of European architecture models.

In this scenario, building renovation may play a key role, being far more ecological and sustainable than the entire new construction process. In addition, the increasing surplus of old, small, vacant dwellings within Chinese cities and by forecasts the U.S. Energy Information Administration on the buildings increasing energy consumption confirm the need for a more in-depth reorganization of the Chinese housing asset.

This is in line with what happened in Europe, where the logic of indiscriminate urban expansion was abandoned in the last decades. With a qualitative transformation, facing the residential discomfort, Europe has become the scenario of various measures of housing sustainable renewal.

Combining the main characteristics of Chinese eco-cities with European best practices of housing renewal, and adapting them to the Chinese urban context, is crucial for a sustainable city growth. In such a complex process, with migrants coming from peasant environments, housing design might be nature-oriented with references to rural elements to make it more “familiar” for the new residents.

The main purpose of the research is to give an overview of the necessity for China to regenerate city assets in order to meet the expected housing demand over the next years. This research is supported by explicative graphics and analyses based on the data of the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics. In parallel, as a complement of the research, it will be reported a few examples of the main European renewal methodologies, drafting a possible starting point for a renovation plan and focusing the problem from an architectural point of view.

The study opens up to the Green Architectonic Renovation in China, where sharing best practices and adapting them to the context are the key factors for future urban renewal.

Read the full text on Reasearchgate

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Eco-cities and the transition to low carbon economies

Caprotti, Federico (2014). Eco-cities and the transition to low carbon economies. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan. 136 p. ISBN : 9781137298751 (Hardcover) / 9781137298751 (Ebook EPUB) / 9781137298751 (Ebook PDF).

9781137298751.inddEco-cities are increasingly being marketed as solutions to a range of pressing global concerns, such as environmental and climate change, hyper-urbanization, demographic shifts, energy security, and the Peak Oil scenario. In response to these issues, eco-cities are being conceptualized as ‘experimental cities’, new urban areas in which new technologies and ways of organizing urban and economic life can be trialled, and where transition pathways towards low-carbon economies can be tested. The author examines the two most advanced eco-city projects under construction at the time of writing – the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City in China, and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. These are the largest and most notable attempts at building new eco-cities to both face up to the ‘crises’ of the modern world and to use the city as an engine for transition to a low-carbon economy.

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Monique Abud

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

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