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C h a p t e r 1 3 City Building in China: Implications for Urban Form Efficiency Douglas Webster Current Chinese city-building processes can be viewed from a land efficiency perspective and through the prism of the key actors, particularly (1) local governments (municipal, urban district, county), (2) the national government, which has become increasingly interventionist in response to energy efficiency, agricultural land protection, and housingaffordability issues, (3) developers (ranging from small-scale, local to large-scale, international developers), and (4) China’s emerging civil society. Two cases, Xi’an and Tianjin, are illustrative. Xi’an was a staid interior city from 1949 until the late 1980s. Over the last two decades, however, the city has been impacted by global industry, particularly by tourism (after the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors) and by software development drawn by a strong educational base and the Xi’an High Technology Development Zone (XHTDZ). The second case, Tianjin, is an established coastal city and a former treaty port, whose economic growth was modest over the last twenty years (in Chinese terms), but it has recently been designated by the current (Hu Jintao) Chinese government as a priority target for urban development as part of a larger-scale focus on the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei megapolitan region. The two case studies are presented from different perspectives. The Xi’an case study focuses on the role of actors, while the Tianjin case study focuses on land-use issues resulting from the behavior of key actors. The research underlying this chapter is driven by the Chinese national government’s concern to achieve more efficient land use in metropolitan areas measured in terms of energy consumption, human travel time, unit infrastructure investment costs, logistics (distribution) City Building in China 213 costs, and loss of fertile agricultural land. In regard to the last, China’s national target is to protect 121 million hectares of agricultural land nationwide in perpetuity.1 As such, the chapter emphasizes understanding the potential of vacant land within the built-up city, rural-urban land conversion, and the degree and spatial distribution of nodality. Of particular concern is the role of drivers affecting the foregoing, particularly land markets, transportation systems (routes, mode, alignment with land use and employment), and large-scale public investments, e.g., construction of urban subcenters. This chapter is a follow-up to research the author undertook earlier on city-building in Bangkok (Webster 2000). Comparing China with Bangkok and other East Asian extended urban regions raises the question : is the Chinese city-building process substantively different from earlier city-building processes in East Asia, or is it simply at an earlier point on the trajectory? A Typology of Chinese Cities Although political decision-making affects urban outcomes (both systems of cities and intra-urban patterns) worldwide, political and administrative decisions have had a stronger impact in China than in comparable continental-sized nations such as the United States, Canada, and Australia . In post-1949 China, the spatial nexus of economic power shifted substantially, especially in terms of manufacturing. (As the country is known as the ‘‘factory of the world,’’2 manufacturing is important in Chinese urban areas, constituting as much as 70 percent of gross economic product in peri-urban areas.) For example, immediately after 1949, the northeast (centered on the Harbin-Qiqihar Corridor) was the industrial center of the country, given its closeness to the Soviet Union. But by the 1960s, the ‘‘Third Line’’ policy had resulted in massive relocation of heavy and strategic industry to the west, e.g., rural Sichuan. (China feared attacks by the Soviet Union over land and by the U.S. along its coasts.) The opening up during the early 1980s brought the coast into a lead role, starting with the four Special Economic Zones in Guangdong Province (Pearl River Delta) and Fujian Province. By the 1990s, the action had moved up the coast to the lower Yangtze Delta (Shanghai), with the designation of Shanghai as the ‘‘gateway to China’’ in 1992. From 2006 onward, the action shifted to the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei megapolitan area, again the result of public policy. At the intra-urban-region scale, policy decisions can play a similarly dramatic role. For example, approximately 80 percent of urban manu- 214 Urban Governance and Finance facturing (former work units) has not only been dispersed out of core cities since 1980, usually to surrounding peri-urban areas, but has also been concentrated in Economic and Technological Development Zones...


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