Urbanization and Urban Governance, Paris, 9 March 2012 - 中欧社会论坛 - China Europa Forum

Urbanization and Urban Governance, Paris, 9 March 2012

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Urbanization and Urban Governance, Paris, 9 March, 2012

Paris, Photo: Yuanshan

To promote a more in-depth dialogue, China-Europa Forum, with the support of Friends of Europe, invited Chinese experts to debate with their French counterparts at a second meeting in Paris on 9 March. The French delegation included witnesses of rapid urban development which occurred in Europe from 1950s to 1980s.

This meeting was designed to foster a sincere and constructive dialogue between representatives of European and Chinese societies, to promote an improved mutual understanding, appropriately dealing with the universal challenges of our time.

The presentation of the European experiences, achievements as well as failures gave rise to a heated discussion on the concept and practices conducive to the sustainable development of cities of tomorrow.

The frank statement of Tie LI, General Director of the China Centre for Urban Development, NDRC in China, illustrated a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the situation of Chinese urban development. The major environmental and social problems generated by the rapid development of China’s cities were of great concern to Chinese officials and experts. This aroused a round of debate on countermeasures to these challenging issues. Other topics included the urgent necessity to develop public mass-transport systems, the need to plan urban and rural areas in conjunction, the establishment of a legal rights systems, a reform of the administrative system, and question of social inequalities etc.

Many common issues were identified. And both sides expressed their willingness to respond them together.

With the support of:

Pierre Calame
President, China-Europa Forum; Expert on City Issues;
Author of many works and articles on Cities and Territories of the 21st century;
Former Deputy-Director, Department of Urban Planning, French Ministry of Equipment

“The development of European cities over the last fifty years shared a number of common features, but also quite a few differences. In this way, European cities are a vast pool of experiences from which later urbanised societies, such as China, have the possibility of drawing from the most successful experiences and understanding the conditions for their success.

How to build a city that is more alive, sustainable and able to adapt with the passage of time? We cannot only be interested in teaching urban planning, but rather all economic, social, political and technical factors.”

The Seine River, Photo by Jingxinrusi

Pierre Mayet
Rapporter, the 6th Five Year Plan (1972-1977) of the Commission on Cities;
Former Executive Director of Human Resources, Ministry of Equipment, France

“It should be understood that the awakening took place between 1965 and 1970: France was no longer a rural country, but was rapidly in the process of becoming an urban country. This ‘Cultural’ Revolution created a new perception of society at the time.

Planning a territory by any general standards is impossible, because every territory in itself is a singular part of the planet. It has its own geography. Therefore, each plan that is created must be invented for a specific territory. To make this plan, it is necessary for a territory to possess strategic intelligence - namely an organisation willing to lend its intelligence to the various authorities of the territory.”

Francis Cuillier
Chairman, Urban Transport Management Group of PREDIT 2 (Interdepartmental Research Programme on Transport)

“The problem of urban planning: it is at the intersection of the time scale and spatial scale. We need to project this in the long run because the implementation is slow, but once these achievements are realised, they may no longer meet the needs or create new problems.”

PNG Jean Loup Drubigny
Director, the Secretariat of URBACT

“The right of residence in the urban and rural areas is free throughout Europe. Nothing in the legislation can prevent rural people from going to a large Western city.”

Thierry Gaudin
Former Director, Centre for Prospective and Evaluation, French Ministry of Industry

“We believe that the cities of 21st century will be different from those of 20th century. Firstly, throughout the world, for climate refugees, they either go to a more liveable place, or leave a less liveable place.

The city of 20th century was dedicated to the labour-intensive manufacturing industry; in the second half of the 20th century, the concentration began to shift to the tertiary sector. Since the 21st century, the evolution of manufacturing has required less labour. As for the tertiary sector, it will be less needed to concentrate them, because with Internet-based communication systems, these activities can be performed remotely.”

Elie Faroult
Vice President, NGO “Petits dé brouillards

“In France, people who live in rural areas enjoy the same services that urban dwellers have. Nowadays, most of the buildings in France are within a 20 km radius of the city. To some extent, France is a large city of 60 million inhabitants!

On the evolution of cities, we have many experiences, but only for the past. We have not experienced the future. With the new modes of telecommunications, you can sit in a place that has a complete network of communication, water, and electricity etc., and it is no longer necessary to physically come together as before. Faced with this evolution of the concept of cities, we need to reflect on this together to address the same concerns in the future.”

Notre Dame de Paris, Photo: Jingxinrusi

“The city-state comes into being for the sake of living, but it exists for the sake of living ‘well’.” - Aristotle, Greek philosopher

Tie LI
General Director, China Centre for Urban Development, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in China

“A series of reforms are needed to be launched to address problems of China’s urbanisation. To begin, the household registration (hukou) system should be abandoned in order to enable people to move freely, though, this will probably take years to realise. Secondly, we need to accelerate the land reform.

Administrative reform in Europe shows that decentralisation is imperative. The Chinese Central Government has a disproportionate amount of control over city management. We need to reform the city governance and simplify the hierarchical system by reducing local administrative levels and allowing more autonomy of individual cities.

The administrative approval and licensing system required for city establishment should be gradually reformed. For towns that have already met the requirements, they should be granted full autonomy and a status of a real city.

Urban development requires multidisciplinary approaches and the coordination between various actors, including architects, sociologists and economists. Therefore, China needs to resolve its problematic planning system by allowing Chinese urban experts to collectively work together.

I hope that we can strengthen our collaborations and exchanges to capture the essence of the European experiences to urbanise China instead of superficial imitations.”

Professor, Associate Dean, School of Public Administration, Southwest Jiaotong University

“In recent years, suburban population has become one of the most concerned issues posed by urbanisation in China. The main features of this phenomenon include: the rapid growth of suburban population density, urbanisation of agricultural lands, and the increasing numbers of migrant workers in urban areas.

We found that there are three major reasons behind this problem. First, most migrant workers prefer to live in the suburbs where the living standards and cost are relatively lower. Second, affluent city dwellers choose to live in suburban areas where larger spaces and better natural environment are more common. Third, as a result of urban sprawl, many industries as well as job opportunities are expanding to suburban locations. This migration creates a series of problems, including serious traffic congestion, uncontrolled and disorder suburban planning, pollutions, and urban-rural gaps.”

The Forbidden City, Photo: NordicStar

PNG Xiaodong LU
Vice President, Chengdu Association for Science and Technology

“The urbanisation process itself proves that a city is more attractive than the countryside. However, due to limited spaces for urban sprawl, it is worth considering how the city and the rural areas benefit from each other.

The open society is an inevitable trend, so is urbanisation. The remaining question for China is how to give its people the right to move and reside freely. One solution is to reform the household registration system and eliminate rural-urban inequalities.

It is even more important to discuss how Chinese and Westerners understand the concepts of urbanisation.”

Qingming ZHAN
Professor, Associate Dean, School of Urban Design and Deputy Director, Research Centre for Digital City, Wuhan University.

“China’s situation of urban development has been gradually improving. In 2008, City Planning Law was replaced by Urban and Rural Planning Law which was designed to promote the balance between urban and rural development. The change also reflects that decision-makers realised that urban development should not be at the expense of rural areas any longer.

Besides, there is another change in China. In the past, urban planning was a sub-discipline of architecture. Today, it has become an independent discipline, with the same statue of architecture. Wuhan University took this opportunity to establish a major on Urban and Rural Planology and extend the Bachelor’s degree to five years. On one hand, we provide related courses, including social sciences, sociology, and ecology. On the other hand, we also added elements of new technologies such as geographical information technology, remote sensing, GPS, and information and communications technologies (ICT).”