China Part One – urbanisation and sustainable development

I have just returned to Freo after spending the last week in China (where, incidentally, blogs are banned) on the invitation of the Chinese Government to speak at a forum on sustainable development for coastal cities. For those of you who have not yet been, China is truly an extraordinary place. It is like no other place I have been and its sustainable development challenges are immense.

This is perhaps most dramatically articulated in its urbanisation challenge. On my four hour  fast train (over 200km/h) from Beijing to Jinzhou City where the conference was I saw a level of urbanisation that easily surpassed that I saw and wrote about on my trip from Hong Kong to Beijing last year. In fact, China is urbanising and developing at a scale that is unprecedented at anytime in human history and the changes to the landscape of the Chinese countryside are truly staggering.  Before the GFC it was said that half the world’s cranes were in Dubai. I am pretty confident they have all now moved to China. Within the first hour a lost count on the number of 30 plus storey apartment building under construction on the urban fringes of the cities we passed through. Hundreds isn’t an exaggeration. Each of these is part of the Chinese Government’s stated policy of moving  400 million more people to the current Chinese urban population in the next decade. The target is two-thirds of China’s population into urban centres by 2030 – China’s urban billion.

This is a social upheaval of epic proportions and in the process it has created an even bigger property bubble with the ruling Communist Party planning to spend $US6.4 trillion on urbanization program. These are mind-boggling numbers. Who plans to actually buy these millions of unfilled apartments is as much of mystery as how will a predominantly rural population cope with the massive cultural shift into high rise.

Of course,  Australia’s prosperity is now intimately linked to the success of this very ambitious transition. The decade ahead will be fascinating to watch.

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About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

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