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UrbaChina survey on “2050 – Storylines for Chinese cities”

The UrbaChina project is committed to devise long-term qualitative scenarios (2050) on the future of China urbanisation. In their final form, the narrative storylines will support the elaboration of policy recommendations on the four main pillars of the project: urban governance, economy, lifestyles, city planning and life. 

Storylines at the year 2050 are designed to help decision-makers and stakeholders “think outside the box” and to identify strategies, including for the medium term (e.g. to 2020-2025), to move towards desirable futures. The approach adopted is highly participatory, and relies heavily on the inputs provided by the project partners and by a wide community of experts from all world regions through on-line surveys and a series of dedicated workshops.

Building the UrbaChina Scenarios

We started by identifying the main critical uncertainties associated to the urbanisation process. These include macro drivers that affect the overall socio-economic framework of China, such as the ageing of population, the increase in the cost of labour, the pace of technological progress and its impact on economic efficiency, and the increasing attention towards the development of human capital, but also drivers that bear a specific relevance in the urban framework, such as the optimisation of land use, the increasing attention towards the urbanisation of people (as opposed to the urbanisation of land), and policy reforms such as notably that of the hukou system.

A scenario logic was then proposed, based on the combination of two main dimensions: (i) the pace of economic growth (and the priority it keeps receiving in the formulation of public policies), and (ii) the pace and nature of policy reforms. The four scenarios accordingly envisaged are illustrated in the scheme below.

Two of these scenarios were retained for full storylines development :

  • the “Bamboo” scenario, which features rapid, unregulated growth, and accelerated pace of production and consumption, constant change associated with the triumph of a global economic dimension
  • the “ginkgo biloba” scenario, pointing to a solid, slow and more structured growth, with strong roots in the contextual socio-economic and ecological environment, and a progressive build-up of systemic resilience, where the regulative dimension prevails as a driver.

 urbachina scenarios

The survey is on-line!

A survey is now on-line to help us developing the pathways and identifying policy changes that are required to reach one or the other of the two scenarios.

It features three main sections:

  • in the first we invite comments on the storylines and suggestions to improve them along the four main policy areas: urban governance, economy, lifestyles, city planning and life. 
  • in the second we elicit “educated guesses” on the foreseeable evolution of nine selected urbanisation indicators.
  • in the third section we invite you to suggest three wild cards that would apply, in general, to all cities and all scenarios

Your input and feedback are essential in order to fine-tune the storylines description and identify the scenarios pathways and milestones!

Please use your knowledge and imagination and answer the survey at:


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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