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Accelerating Urbanization Transformation through Comprehensively Deepening the Reform

By Li Wei 2015-07-03

Urbanization is the only way leading to modernization and along with industrialization constitute the two engines propelling modernization. Based on economic development, urbanization will go through a natural development course and a sophisticated social development course, involving population migration, economic progress, social changes, cultural evolvement and even system reform. Confronted with many acute problems, China's urbanization urgently needs to transform its mode.

I. Transformation of Urban Growth Mode Constitutes the Foundation and Core for Urbanization Transformation

The first and foremost issue for the transformation of urban growth mode is to change the pattern of urban economic development. The past three decades have witnessed the rapid urban economic growth, which, however, features high resource consumption, high capital investment and severe pollution and emission. Therefore, we must abolish the old development pattern as soon as possible and turn to technological progress and management innovation for urban economic development. China's cities, especially large and medium-sized ones, boast a larger number of innovation talents, institutions and other innovation resources and have the most favorable conditions to change the economic growth mode through innovation. The key is to create a social environment that encourages innovation while tolerating failure and it could effectively capitalize on the government's role in formulating scientific and technological plans, supporting basic research and generic technology research and establishing innovation platforms, while bringing into play the major role of the market in the allocation of innovation elements.

The second issue related to the transformation of urban growth mode is to change the way of urban spatial expanding. Swift land urbanization over population urbanization is an outstanding feature of China's urbanization. To address the issue of extensive urban spatial expanding, we should change our concept in urban planning, and gradually turn the urban expanding planning to urban planning with boundary delimitation and spatial structure improvement. We should strengthen the nature of urban planning in line with relevant regulations, and substantially address the divorcing of urban construction from urban planning, city planning varied as the leadership changes, and extensive demolition and construction.

II. Transformation of Urban Social Development Mode Constitutes the Key Issue and Major Difficulty for Urbanization Transformation

Urban social development is a hard nut to crack for all countries and is still not solved yet. In the current stage of fast industrialization, urbanization and modernization and rapid social and cultural transition, the extensive population flowing between urban and rural areas and among cities has caused many new social problems in cities. First, a large number of rural surplus laborers swarms into cities, bringing both rich labor resources for urban economic development and great pressure to urban social progress as well. Second, the adjustment of the economic structure in the course of urbanization, especially the time-consuming governance of excess production capacity and the elimination of excess production capacity, have resulted in a large number of dismissed people and imposed great unemployment pressure on urban society, despite the improved efficiency of urban economy. Third, the division of labor is more specific in the process of urbanization. Promoting social diversification has exacerbated social stratification, weakened social consensus and reduced social compatibility. Fourth, as the old concepts and methods of urban social governance are becoming less influential, new governance concepts, methods and systems have not taken shape yet.

In face of these stern challenges, we must formulate a new urban social development pattern as soon as possible. To promote the transformation of urban social development, we should enhance the fairness and inclusiveness of cities, gradually narrow down the urban-rural income gap, and eliminate actual differences in economic, political, cultural and social rights and benefits for urban and rural residents as soon as possible. Besides, equal access to development opportunities and public services should be provided to all urban residents. Governments at all levels should play their leading role in stimulating the vitality of social organizations and creating a harmonious urban social environment featuring mutual inclusiveness and care.

III. Urban Culture Rebuilding Constitutes an Indispensable Part for Urbanization Transformation

Culture is the soul of a city. The rapid urbanization in recent years has made urban bear more or less the same outlook and even vulgar and weird appearance. That is a kind of "constructive damage" to urban culture, or severe "urban cultural diseases", which is in essence the loss of "folk culture" or "national culture" in the process of rapid social reform.

The key for rebuilding urban culture is to realize and promote people-centered urbanization. First, importance should be attached to the cultural spirit and cultural function of the city and we should regard the city as a carrier of civilization, history and people's emotions. Second, the cultural connotation of urban planning and management should be enriched to enhance the urbanization level. Third, substantial efforts should be made to intensify protection of historic sites in cities and integrate the protection and utilization of such sites.

IV. Change of the Management Method Constitutes the Major Support for Urbanization Transformation

Major problems in urban management include the inadequate laws and regulations, inappropriate institutional layout, improper management methods and careless work. They have caused traffic jam, worsened pollution, concentration of poor population, public security risks and some other urban diseases.

To cure such urban diseases and build a more charming and beautiful city outlook, we must accelerate the transformation of urban management pattern and establish a new pattern featuring intensiveness and high efficiency rather than extensiveness and low efficiency, and constant and normal management instead of rush management. To do so, we should strengthen relevant legislation and enforce city planning. We should issue the national strategic planning for new-type urbanization to coordinate urbanization in different regions, and make the planning more authoritative and regulative. We should enhance people's participation and build a smart city outlook through wide application of modern information technology.

The article was published in China Development Review, No 1, 2014.

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