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The Essence of New Urbanization Is the Urbanization of People
By China Review News Translator Sheng-Wei Wang
April 1, 2013

Source: http://www.chinareviewnews.com 2012-12-19 07:59:03



The just-concluded China’s Central Economic Work Conference has confirmed six major tasks for economic work in 2013. One task is to actively and steadily promote urbanization, and strive to improve the quality of urbanization.


The editorial of the First Financial Daily said that before the start of the Central Economic Work Conference, discussions around urbanization had already heated up. China's economic future must firmly grasp the strategic basis for expanding the domestic demand; urbanization is where the "greatest potential for expanding the domestic demand" lies and a path to solving the difficult “three-dimensional rural issues” (Chinese three-dimensional rural issues concerning agriculture, countryside and farmers). It is not surprising that urbanization has received much consideration.


The focus of many public discussions on urbanization falls on the so-called "old or new" concept and stresses the need to build new urbanization. A repositioning/redirection to “new” urbanization is not unreasonable. In the historical urbanization process, a lot of problems occurred due to a lack of understanding of the essence of urbanization. In the future when we explore the new approach, the exact meaning is to learn a lesson from the past.


The above-mentioned editorial, rather than simply getting entangled in the "new or old" concept, considers that it is more important to think what the new urbanization really means, which past experience is worth learning, and what problems must be reflected on. Without clarifying these issues, the future urbanization process in different places may walk on a wrong path.


The Central Economic Work Conference roughly elaborated from three aspects how to walk the road of the new urbanization. First is to build a scientific and rational urban structure that is compatible with the carrying capacity of resources and environment; second is to urbanize the transferred agricultural population in an orderly fashion; third is to fully integrate the concept of ecological civilization and principle into the whole process of urbanization. Although the three requirements cannot fully cover the “new” concept of the new urbanization, they basically have grasped and embodied the essence of it.


The same article points out that, through the above-mentioned requirements, the goal of “people” as the main body of the urbanization becomes gradually clear. If people cannot become the main body, how can we talk about expanding the domestic demand through urbanization? Also, what about solving the “three-dimensional rural issues”? The core of the new urbanization is the urbanization of people. Such an understanding is of paramount importance.


The many years of urbanization in the past cannot be said to have made no achievements. In the past three decades, the average annual urbanization rate was about 1% - that alone can be regarded as a significant achievement. Blindly denying or blindly exaggerating the achievements is equally harmful. But a review of the past path of urbanization also reveals a lot of problems. Many places have implemented an “expansion in scale." In a certain sense, this process of urbanization in the past was accompanied by an expansion of the investment. The important starting point of the urbanization was land, and it relied on investment and industrial pull. On the surface, urbanization expanded the scope of town planning and built more houses and roads. However, people did not follow the building up of the infrastructure. There were deviations between the urbanization process and the desired target.


The reason is that this scale-expansion type of urbanization, although boosting the statistics of urban construction and economic growth, did not produce high-quality urbanization. First, there was a blindness in layout, namely, the urbanization and the regional economic development and industrial layout lacked convergence. Second, there was an increase in the urban population and consumption, but it did not fundamentally change the urban-rural dual structure. A large number of migrant workers moved to the cities but could not settle in; they built cities but could not enjoy the urban welfare, since the household registration system and other barriers made them outsiders of the city. The real transfer of rural population to urban areas was lagging far behind the scale expansion of the urbanization. Third, the process of urbanization also often increased pollution. Urbanization and the protection of the ecological environment appeared to be out of line.


Viewing from this point, the Central Economic Work Conference has addressed the right problem by proposing the requirements for the new urbanization. The participants thoroughly understood the long-standing abuse and tackled it by seizing the crux. If urbanization cannot bring an orderly and rational urban structure, then the past “sleeping city”-like story will repeat itself; and if urbanization does not take a new approach of promoting competitiveness, intelligent management, green energy and low-carbon use, then the urbanization process may also continue to bring increased pollution.


The article said that the new urbanization has an important task, namely to implement urbanization of the transferred agricultural population in an orderly fashion. This is systems engineering. It will require deepening the reform of the household registration system, speeding up the implementation of the policy of relaxing the requirements for people to settle down in small- and medium-sized cities and small towns, especially in the county capitals and the town centers. It should encourage the qualified and transferred agricultural population to settle in towns and enjoy the same rights as the local urban residents. It can be said that without the reform of the household registration system, there is no real urbanization; and without the equality in using the public service, it is also difficult to truly promote urbanization.


It is also worth mentioning that to avoid making thousands of identical cities the urbanization of different places should proceed with different characteristics. If China's urbanization today can make some improvements or even some breakthroughs, then it has achieved the true quality of urbanization. 


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