Tag Archives: governance

A tale of two eco-cities: experimentation under hierarchy in Shanghai and Tianjin

Miao, Bo and Graeme Lang. (2014) A tale of two eco-cities: experimentation under hierarchy in Shanghai and Tianjin. Urban Policy and Research. Prepublished December, 3, 2014. DOI: 10.1080/08111146.2014.967390

Two ambitious ‘new city’ projects were launched in China during the past 15 years—the ‘Dongtan eco-city’ project in Shanghai and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project in Tianjin. Both have received much international publicity and attention. However, the Dongtan project has stalled, and will evidently not be revived, while the Tianjin project continues, albeit with more moderate goals. We analyse the two cases, using the concept of ‘experimentation under hierarchy’ to show why one project is proceeding, while the other has failed. The key factors were strong international inputs of expertise and funds in the Tianjin project, along with crucial support from the central government, both of which were lacking in the Dongtan project.

近15 年来,中国搞了两个宏大的“新城”计划,一个是上海东滩生态城,一个是中国与新加坡合资的天津生态城。这两项工程都在国际上造出了许多舆论,也得到许多关 注。然而,东滩项目半途而废,显然不会再度启动,目标比较温和的天津项目倒是一直在进行。本文用“科层制度下的实验”这一概念,分析这两个案例,说明为何 一个项目得以延续,另一个却以失败告终。我们认为关键因素是天津项目有强大的国际专家团队和国际资金投入,而且,关键是得到了中央政府的支持,而这些因素 东滩项目都没有。

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Monique Abud

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

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Beijing’s rise as a global city

Wang, Feng (2013) Beijing as a globally fluent city. Washington, DC : Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy & Global Cities Initiative. 20 p. (accessed 28 October 2013)

Beijing is without any doubt already a global city. A symbol of China’s emergence as a global power, Beijing ranks among the world’s most influential cities. Beijing has developed into an important global city in a relatively short period of time. Beijing has benefited from efforts by the Chinese government and Beijing’s municipal government to elevate the city’s international reputation, and from Beijing’s legacy and position as China’s political and cultural center. There has also been massive investment in infrastructure to support business and innovation activities and to enhance Beijing’s global connectivity. However, Beijing’s rise as a global city is still incomplete.

Beijing’s global influence in terms of economic competitiveness and financial interconnectedness still do not measure up to the top cities in the world. In Beijing as a Globally Fluent City, Feng Wang examines four key questions on Beijing’s rise towards becoming a top tier global city:

  1. What kind of city does Beijing aspire to be?
  2. How can Beijing improve its governance?
  3. What does it take to build a more vibrant economy?
  4. How can Beijing’s global identity be further enhanced?
  • Wang Feng (Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy)

Monique Abud

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

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Environment and climate change as geopolitical issues in the Asias: What can be learned from the European experience?

Branko Bošnjaković1 (2013), Environment and climate change as geopolitical issues in the Asias: What can be learned from the European experience, Globality Studies Journal No. 35, July 26, 2013.

While the European Union’s environmental achievements have proved important the next major issue is the pan-European cooperation in the broader region covered by the UN Economic Commission for Europe. When improving security in Europe became a common geopolitical goal in the 1970s and 1980s, several conventions on transboundary environmental issues,
including air, water, impact assessment, and industrial accidents were established. Beyond their technical implications and successes, such agreements have potential to prevent transboundary conflicts that are now opening to all UN member states. The lessons learned with transboundary agreements and negotiations as well as those regarding regional seas, such as the Baltic and Caspian, could be useful for cooperation in Asia. On climate change mitigation, Europe’s role tends to become marginalized in comparison with geopolitical actors like the big Asian economies and the US, which are less willing to come to an effective global agreement on greenhouse gases reduction

Read the full text of tha article : http://globality.cc.stonybrook.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/035BBo%C5%A1njakovi%C4%87.pdf

  1. University of Rijeka, Croatia, Formerly UN Economic Commission for Europe []

Jacqueline Nivard

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

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Ren-Urban China

Urban China

Ren, Xuefei. (2013) Urban China. Cambridge : Polity Press. 218 p (China today).

Ren Xuefei is assistant professor of sociology and global urban studies at Michigan State University.


Currently there are more than 125 Chinese cities with a population exceeding one million. The Ren Xuefei - Urban Chinaunprecedented urban growth in China presents a crucial development for studies on globalization and urban transformation. This book examines the past trajectories, present conditions, and future prospects of Chinese urbanization, by investigating five key themes – governance, migration, landscape, inequality, and cultural economy.

Based on a comprehensive evaluation of the literature and original research materials, Ren offers a critical account of the Chinese urban condition after the first decade of the twenty-first century. She argues that the urban-rural dichotomy that was artificially constructed under socialism is no longer a meaningful lens for analyses and that Chinese cities have become strategic sites for reassembling citizenship rights for both urban residents and rural migrants.

For students and scholars of urban and development studies with a focus on China, and all interested in understanding the relationship between state, capitalism, and urbanization in the global context.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1 China Urbanized
  • Chapter 2 Governance
  • Chapter 3 Landscape
  • Chapter 4 Migration
  • Chapter 5 Inequality
  • Chapter 6 Cultural Economy
  • Conclusion

 Publisher’s website

Monique Abud

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

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Cities of the future

In September 2012, the American review Foreign Policy published a special issue on Chinese cities. Ever since the 2010 World Exhibition in Shanghai, the international audience has shown an ever increasing interest in urbanisation issues in China, and several reviews have focused on this topic. The special issue of Foreign Policy can be seen as a response to a recent report published by the McKinsey Global Institute on the 75 most dynamic cities of 2025. According to this study, there will be more leading cities in China than in the USA.  Foreign Policy chose to focus on these Chinese cities, their infrastructures and the issues and opportunities created by their development. FP proposes several articles, interviews and picture galleries to help to understand the great urban challenges China is facing.
In 2011, for the first time, China’s urban population exceeded its rural population. Because of China’s large population and its continuous economic growth, new megacities are emerging, and Chinese cities are definitely cities of the future, as the title of the FP special issue indicates.  Wuhan and Chongqing are the next Chicago, or London. The growth of Chinese cities is a formidable impetus for change; several of the authors of articles in this issue have adopted a very optimistic and enthusiastic point of view regarding the massive urbanisation China is undergoing. Their articles explore the opportunities the new urban giants in China offer in terms of innovation and sustainable development.

  • For example, Dustin Roasa presents new inventions that may transform China’s urbanism, and place Beijing in the lead for sustainability.  Not only will Chinese cities house the tallest skyscrapers , but they will also become the cleanest and the most efficient cities, thanks to enormous investments in infrastructures. According to the author, China will surpass the USA in many innovative industries, with the result that Chinese cities will “affect the future of urban areas everywhere”.
  • The same enthusiasm, though with some reservations, is shared by Richard Dobbs and Jaana Remes in their comments on the McKinsey Global Institute’s index of the 75 most dynamic cities of 2025. Unexpectedly, China will have the highest proportion of leading cities, but, for the authors, issues of governance and speculation may threaten these Chinese cities’ capacity for world leadership.  Dobbs and Remes also give some recommendations with regard to sustainable development: basic infrastructures need to be improved in terms of building, shipping facilities and water supply, so that “a better China” may emerge.

Other articles are much more critical about China’s urbanisation. For most of these authors China’s urbanisation is still “a work in progress”, and improvement of infrastructures is not the most important challenge that Chinese cities will have to face. Rather, these authors consider political reforms to be urgently needed in order to sustain urban growth.

  • Isaac Town Fish regrets that Chinese cities are unpleasant to live in because of pollution and “sameness”.  He argues that the Chinese communist system must be blamed for these “depressing” cities.  Christina Larson disagrees with Town Fish on the sameness of Chinese cities. Although Chinese cities look similar because of their architecture, their “content” is very different; Larson made several field trips to three different Chinese cities: Guangdong, Urumqi and Shenyang. For the author, the economic reforms implemented in China over the last twenty years, have restored Chinese cities to their own pre-communist state: for instance Urumqi, a remote outpost from the 50’s to the 70’s, has now become a hub on the new Silk road.

Two articles deal specifically with Shanghai and Beijing, but it is to be regretted that there is no article covering the second tier cities, the ones that may become world cities in the next ten years.

  • According to Daniel Brook, Shanghai is not yet a global city, although it shows some of the characteristics of one. Shanghai deals with global commodities, offers global services, but still does not share global values, and so cannot stand up to comparison with New York, the most global city of all.
  • Michel Meyers’ Beijing may be seen as China’s centre, attracting millions of migrants, but even if Beijing is the seat of China’s political power, it retains some of the characteristics of a village, and is therefore not a global city either.
  • Ai Weiwei has said that Beijing lacks the freedom to become a global city. In an interview with Jonathan Landreth, this world renowned artist depicts Beijing as a “monster”.  Ai Weiwei strongly advocates for less state control, so that citizens can truly be part of this leading city, by making decisions, and so being truly involved in the city’s choices. Political reforms also need to be implemented at the local level, and municipal governments’ decisions need to be strictly scrutinised by both central authorities and local citizens.
  • Jonathan Kaiman makes this point in his article entitled “debt bomb”. Cities have carried out prestigious building programs for the sake of their “grandeur”, but as a result they are riddled with bad debts. The author warns against the possibility of the real estate bubble bursting in China, and blames the short term vision of municipal authorities.
  • But the future of Chinese cities may not be all that gloomy, for a new generation of political leaders is on its way. Geoff Dyer chooses to look at the emergence of a Chinese urban intelligentsia and focuses on the case of Wang Yang, the CCP secretary for Guangdong. According to the author, Wang Yang has achieved important political reforms in his province, promoting transparency and encouraging civil society.  Geoff Dyer hopes that this kind of leader will be nominated for the new Politburo.

At first glance, we may assume that the writers have not visited the same cities, since there is a clear distinction between those who consider Chinese cities a success, and even a possible model for European and American cities to follow, and those who feel that numerous political reforms need to be carried out if Chinese cities are to become sustainable. But, on closer inspection, it seems obvious that all the writers are all right. Chinese cities are dynamic, and Shanghai has woken up from a long, dreamless night. These cities offer huge opportunities, but at the same time it is only the beginning of their transformation.  These cities have the political will, the financial means (although they must get rid of bad debts), the economic growth and the demographic trends to become global cities and challenge the domination of New York, London or Tokyo.  However, they need to be open up to their own inhabitants.  That is why, as Ai Weiwei has said, democracy is needed. World cities have always been places where people can exchange ideas and concepts freely, and so let innovation thrive. New York, the most global of cities, has attracted millions of immigrants, not only for her economic dynamism but also for the freedom she has offered.




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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