Zhongjie Lin (2014), Constructing Utopias: China’s Emerging Eco-cities, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina. ARCC Conference Repository, 2014 .
Each year about 16 millions of China’s rural residents – equivalent to the total population of the Netherlands – are moving into cities. This trend has continued for nearly two decades in this “largest mass migration ever seen in human history” (David Harvey). Amid such dramatic demographic shift and the resulting construction boom are ambitious plans throughout China to create new towns to house swelling population and to sustain economic growth. A series of prototype eco-new towns have been proposed in this wave of mass urbanization. They are often conceived as exemplary piece of urbanism showcasing the latest design and environmental technologies in town building, and represent a new chapter in China’s continuing effort of organized urbanization as a strategy to address complex economic and environmental issues.
This paper studies three eco-new town projects, including Dongdan Eco-city, Binhai Eco-city, and Qingdao Eco-block. They were intended as “models” to showcase the best practice in planning and development and to provide duplicable experience for other cities in the country. The paper examines these eco-new towns through the lens of urbanism and utopianism, focusing on the relationship between place making and social development. These projects were either initiated by the governments or created by private organizations or joint ventures, demonstrating different strategies of developing eco-city and representing different political and economic agendas. However, they were all encountered some dilemmas due to the current land policies and prevalent patterns of urban development in China, which indicates more fundamental issues to tackle to move toward a sustainable society. Studying China’s emerging eco-city movement from design and policy perspectives, this paper contribute to the understanding of new patterns of urban growth in our globalized era, and shed a new light on the strategies of dealing with the current environmental crises.