Youth Planners' Innovation Forum

By Zhang Hao (张昊) on 26 May 2014

On May 17, 2014, I attended the Youth Planners’ Innovation Forum. The forum was held by China’s most prestigious planning school — Tongji University — as a brainstorm with inspiring lectures on various research fields on urban studies. The forum was divided into 4 major symposiums, including “区域发展与总体规划” (regional development and master planning), “城市更新与历史保护” (urban renewal and historic preservation), “乡村规划与城乡统筹” (rural planning and urban-rural integration), “信息技术与规划创新” (information technology and planning innovation). The lectures and discussions afterwards generated some very visionary ideas and they are undoubtedly beneficial to provide solutions for China’s urban predicaments at present.

Professor Zhao Min, specialized in regional development and urbanization, mentioned that it is important to differentiate migrant workers from migrants when conducting research on public policy for coordinating rural and urban development. Migrant workers mostly seek work in a city while migrants are more concerned with being involved in urban life and social inclusion. This has brought a question to policy-makers: is it really necessary to provide low-rental housing for migrant workers with the government’s investments? Since their interest is not about being urban dwellers, but only to make as much profits as they can before they leave the city eventually. On the contrary, to migrants, who really intend to be members of urban society, we should not just offer them urban identity such as hukou, but also make them feel social inclusion by organizing community participation, etc. On that matter, Li Zhigang, a Professor from Sun Yat-sen University specialized in migrants and affordable housing, showed that, valuing the role of middle class when proposing planning mechanism for mixed-living model may be beneficial for a more harmonious society.

Another opinion being discussed during the forum is in-situ urbanization, which provides a possible solution for easing the burden of social inclusion in large cities. In-situ urbanization advocates investment preference to small and medium cities to attract migrants to stay and work there instead of pouring into large cities. With China’s urbanization going deeper, the small towns that had become important foci for industrial development grew to become substantial urban centers with concentrations of industry and were reclassified as cities, a process known as in-situ urbanization. It has caused significant structural and physical changes in vast rural areas, and has also resulted in an increasingly blurred distinction between urban and rural settlements. To prevent further marginalization of rural areas, it is crucial to enhance the attractiveness of the areas to keep the potential migrant workers instead of forcing them to move to larger cities for a better life. In-situ urbanization can effectively make rural areas more competitive, and promote local infrastructure and social welfare development.

When I was on subway to Tongji University for the forum, it is not quite convenient to get there from my university (had to take at least 3 different lines). So is it possible to consider building a faster transportation system connecting all the universities in Shanghai without stopping at other places? Not just for my sake, but for promoting the exchange of ideas for all the scholars and students. Maybe we can name the system “shuttle” since we hope it works just like that? The reason to connect universities is to promote the agglomeration of intelligence, since universities are often served as the city’s or even country’s intellectual pool and they can boost local development and innovation (as proved by Silicon Valley in California, USA and Zhongguancun in Beijing, China). Construction for such system will inevitably cost the government’s revenue, however, in the long run, the system, which is 100% students/ faculties oriented, will fruit the city.

Bibliography

  1. Zhu, Yu. Qi, Xinhua. Shao, Huaiyou. He, Kaijing. “The Evolution of China’s In-situ Urbanization And Its Planning And Environmental Implications: Case Studies From Quanzhou Municipality”. 2009 Urban Population-Environment Dynamics in the Developing World: Case Studies and Lessons learned. Paris: Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography (CICRED) pp. 213-245.
  2. Yusuf, Shahid. Saich, Tony. “China Urbanizes: Consequences, Strategies, and Policies”, Journal of Chinese Political Science, Volume 14, Issue 2, (June 2009): pp. 219-220.
Zhang Hao (张昊)

Hao is a research engineer in urbanism.

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