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Substantially Improving the Development of Metropolitan Circle

By Zhang Laiming 2015-07-28

Metropolitan circles are the advanced stage of urbanization. At present, there are three metropolitan circles in China, namely the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. With outstanding geographic advantage, they possess the absolute potential to grow into world-level metropolitan circles. In fact, their development still faces many realistic problems, requiring proper handling of the relationship between the government and the market and the improvement of top-level design with the vision for gradual progress.

As a positive achievement of civilization, cities, including metropolises, reflect the development history of human society and embody people's dream for a better life. It is fair to say that since the time when cities emerge, living in cities and becoming urban dwellers have become people's unswerving pursuit. The pursuit is an important driving force for the development of cities.

It's said that the first city in the world emerged ten thousand years ago. Throughout this long period of time, cities have remained the crown of human civilization. In ancient China, cities such as Xi'an, Luoyang, Kaifeng, Nanjing and Beijing were second to none when compared with other cities in the world in terms of both population size and thriving prosperity.

However, cities and urbanization in the modern sense only emerged after industrial revolution and were closely connected with industrialization. Industrialization fundamentally reshaped the meaning and form of cities. In this sense, urbanization in China started over 100 years later than Western industrialized countries and backward industrialization was a major reason for the underdevelopment of urbanization in modern China.

Looking back at the world urban development history, especially after the first industrialization revolution, the word "congregation" or "systematization" could be used to describe the nature of cities. It is believed that the two words can explain both the vigor and appeal of cities and the reason for criticism against them. As for congregation, it's because of the congregation of population and human activities in the relatively narrow space of cities that people can enjoy various positive benefits of economy of scale and economy of scope. Such economies are helpful not only for economic activities and industrial layout, but also for the improvement of public service supply, reduction of supply cost and rationalization of state governance and social governance modes.

However, sugarcane is never sweet at both ends as the Chinese saying goes. It's also because of the congregation that people have to bear the negative impact resulting from traffic congestion and overburdened public services, resources and environment.

Therefore, for city development, besides congregation in terms of scale, number and scope, sound organization is also needed among different industries, across social sectors, in space form and in internal functions. With sound organization, the negative impact induced by congregation of population and various human activities can be reduced, while without such organization, the impact will become deteriorated. People all have such personal experience in real life.

Cities developing into metropolitan circles are the natural process of urbanization and also a result of the advanced stage of urbanization. In a metropolitan circle, congregation and systematization have gone beyond the scope of a single city related to population, industry, social activities and governance, but are the result of in-depth integration of cities of different sizes with different features and functions in a larger space. Similar to cities that inject vigor to economic and social development of a country, metropolitan circles can integrate and optimize various national resources and promote national vigor and competitive edge to a higher level.

As we all know, currently, there are several mega metropolitan circles with global influence in the world, including the New York – Boston – Washington metropolitan circle and the Great Lakes in the United States, the Tokyo metropolitan circle in Japan, the London circle in the UK and the Greater Paris region in France. Besides, the Ranstad circle in the Netherlands and the Rhine – Ruhr circle in Germany are also quite famous. Centered on one or several large cities, the metropolitan circles are supported by the layered structure in space with active economic and social activities and highly complementary functions. They have become the innovation hub and competition highland in their country or region and greatly eased the various urban diseases caused by over-congregation of population, resources and human activities in a single city.

China would keep on learning. This also applies to the promotion of new-type urbanization and the development of metropolitan circles. The reason is that China is a latecomer in this regard and can draw experience and lessons from the practices of developed countries. Though China differs from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and other developed countries in social system, cultural tradition, geography, climate and resources, people of all these countries all want an ideal urban life. To be specific, people hope that while creating material prosperity, metropolitan circles can also keep sustainable environment and resources, with a fair and social order and a well-managed city governance, so as to improve the living standard and quality of residents and enhance their sense of happiness. More importantly, there are objective rules to follow for the formation and growth of cities, the optimization of urban spatial structure and the development and application of advanced technologies in cities. By learning from developed countries in these areas, China can march ahead faster with less cost.

In the past thirty years and more, China has experienced sustained and rapid urbanization. The urbanization rate increased by one percentage point annually on average, and had already reached 53.73% by 2013. It is no exaggeration to say that in light of the large population, China's urbanization over the past thirty years and more can be regarded the largest urbanization in scope in human history. It's exactly because of the large-scope urbanization that three ultra large metropolitan circles (the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region) have emerged in China, plus another ten relatively smaller circles. In and around the three metropolitan circles, over one hundred million people have gathered. Boasting over 90% of economic activities, the three circles enjoy an important geo-strategic position and the location advantage and thus have the potential to grow into world-level ones.

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