China’s urban population has roughly quadrupled in the last 35 years to more than 700 million, and this is likely to rise by a further 240 million over the next 35 years. For decades, both urbanisation and economic growth have been based on cheap labour, cheap land, robust export demand and little regard for the social and environmental consequences. With the era of double digit growth now over and fears of a debt-laden downturn on the horizon, China needs a new form of urbanisation to make the shift to a new model of high-value, innovative, and sustainable growth. Our third City Horizons event will look at what this urbanisation model will look like, and can China’s leaders make it happen?
The OECD’s Senior Councillor William Tompson, lead author of their Urban Policy Review of China, examined the major challenges associated with the shift to a new model of urbanisation. As China becomes richer and more urbanised, how can its cities drive the transition from low-cost manufacturing to innovation-led service economy? 200 years on from Europe’s Industrial Revolution, which drew millions off the land and into the factories in mushrooming, soot-ridden and unsanitary cities of Europe, can the experience of European city-dwellers in dealing with the problems of pollution and overcrowding provide any guide for any of today’s Chinese cities? And do China’s cities offer lessons for leaders in the developed and developing world?