Accelerated & Illegal Urbanism

China creates cities

The basic law of China’s urban development is growth. The rise of the Chinese City is the most visible outcome of the economic growth China went through during the last decades; its rise combines culture specific forms of accelerated urbanism, illegal planning, instant real estate investment and top-down planning. How is this growth made possible? To what patterns of urban development does this lead? How is the city re-designed and re-organized through projects with a dazzling amount about of square meters?

In order to create a framework for the city/state workshop movingcities provides below some research into the mechanisms behind this growth; accelerated & illegal urbanism.

Wangjinxi | Beijing, 2007

Accelerated Urbanism

China accelerating urbanization (People’s Daily, September 30, 2007)

In addition to the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, and Bohai Sea region, another eight city clusters have sprung up. A system of urban development gradually takes shape. Apart from the city clusters in the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the Bohai Sea region, China has witnessed the establishment of eight new city clusters in the delta areas of Xiamen, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou and southern Fujian Province, Shandong Peninsula, southern and central Liaoning Province, central China, the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, the west side of the Taiwan Gulf, Sichuan and Chongqing, and central Shaanxi Province.

Shanghai, 2006

China’s urban area reaches 32,521 kilometers (People’s Daily, May 14, 2007)

In recent years, Chinese cities have expanded rapidly with their urbanization rate rising steadily over the past half century from 29.04 percent in 1995 to 41.76 percent in 2004. The urban scale has enlarged quickly in the wake of growth in urban population. From 2000 to 2005, China’s completed urban areas rose from 22,439 square kilometers to 32,521 square km with the density of urban population increasing from 442 per sq km to 870 per sq km; and the residential housing space was up from 4.41 billion square kilometers to 10.77 billion square kilometers.

Shenzhen, 2008

Ai Weiwei : Fragments, Voids, Sections and Rings (Archinect, December 5, 2006)

I think that’s a special landscape in today’s China, you are the largest construction site in the world and each year Beijing has one hundred million square meters of construction which exactly equals the area of the whole city in 1949. Every year you have this total amount of construction, but you only finish a third of it, thirty million square metres. You know these are just numbers, but they really tell you something about the urban condition, especially when you see that China builds 20 times the area built in Beijing. The whole country is building crazily.

Shenyang, 2006

Cultural aspects of the high speed urbanization in China ( totalstadt. beijing case, 2006)

Ever since the beginning of economic reform in China since the late 1970s there has been breathtaking change in the area of urbanization. The world’s most populous country is in the middle of radical catch-up modernization, which produces continuous economic growth and deep social change. This is poignantly visible in the growth and structure of China’s cities. Megacities of a new type are formed, exemplifying the unfolding of economic reform policies as they manifest themselves in urban development. (download Beijing Case Concept English [no longer available])

Half China to live in cities by 2010 (China Daily, November 7, 2006)

Urbanization is speeding up throughout China, with half the 1.3 billion Chinese or one tenth of the world’s population expected to live in cities in 2010. Every year, about 13 million rural people flood into China’s cities, equivalent to the current population of Beijing, Vice-Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing told the Fudan University International Urban Forum over the weekend. To accommodate this new urban population, the country needs a huge amount of resources, currently accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s total annual cement consumption and 30 per cent of the annual steel consumption. In addition, current construction projects account for around 30 per cent of the global total, said the vice-minister. He estimated that it would be another 30 years before the initial phase of China’s urbanization is completed.

Shenyang, 2006

China is at the forefront of the greatest urban-industrial revolution of all time (City Mayors Website, June 14, 2006)

As the United Nations reports, urban growth today is proceeding at a pace unheard of in history. Nowhere in the world is this more evident than in the cities of the People’s Republic of China. It has been described there as being part of the greatest urban-industrial revolution of all time. The policies that have fueled this growth and evolution of Chinese cities have demonstrated that urban development is an integral feature for China’s development planners in the post-1978 reform era when market reforms were undertaken. In sheer numbers this has also produced what has been called the greatest internal migration in history, with urban migrants now sending home more money than foreign migrants of China or any other country.

Harbin, 2006

Shanghai: the fastest city? (Urban Age Conference, July, 2005)

The Urban Age, a six-year sequence of international conferences held in cities across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe between 2005 and 2010. The Urban Age will construct the framework for a developing network of individuals that exchanges information, experiences and data, emphasizing the relationships between concrete investment, design and building, and the economic, environmental, social, political and cultural processes that shape city life.

Shanghai, 2006

China’s urbanization process in full-scale acceleration (People’s Daily, May 19, 2004)

From 1978 to 2002, the level of urbanization in China increased from 17.92 percent to 39.1 percent, with an increase of 21.18 percentage points, said Qiu Baoxing, China’s Vice Minister of Construction. The annual growth rate was 0.88 percentage points, two times the world average level of the same period, he added. Statistics from the Ministry of Construction show that by the end of 2002, there were 660 cities and 20,600 administrative towns in China, totaling a population of 502 million.

But Qiu noted that there are still some problems in the urban and rural planning. One of these problems, a large number of so-called “Image Projects” or “Achievement Projects” that waste man power and money have been undertaken only to promote the image of a city or achievement of city officials. Other problems include inappropriate acquisition and occupationof land in the form of development zones, overlapped construction in some key infrastructure development projects, and the damage toancient buildings or relics during the construction, said Qiu. Qiu said, currently, about one-fifth of China’s total cities and towns have such problems of inappropriate urban and rural planning, and the Chinese government has decided to take serious measures to solve these problems.

View from railroad | Beijing-Harbin, 2006

China Yearbook 2004

Population density is a main index to show population distribution form and the regional differences of population’s distribution. With the increase of China’s population, the population density is on the increase. Since 1982, although the population’s net increase was on the decline and the growth rate of population was also on the decrease year on year, the population density is on the increase. The density of the population rose from 105 people per sq km in 1982 to 135 people per sq km in 2003, rising 30 per sq km. Now the highest population density is in Shanghai, 2,716 people per sq km, far higher than the average level in the country. Tianjin, Beijing, Jiangsu, Shandong and Henan followed Shanghai and the population density in the cities and provinces are ranging from 579 to 895 people per sq km.

Illegal Urbanism

Over 20 percent of land acquisitions in China’s cities illegal (People’s Daily, September 27, 2007)

Almost a quarter of new land acquisitions in Chinese cities are illegal, according the Ministry of Land and Resources. A survey using remote sensing satellite technology showed 22 percent of new acquisitions in 90 medium-sized and large cities were illegal. The data collected from October 2005 to October 2006 also showed more than 80 percent of acquisitions were illegal in eight cities, where more than 16,000 hectares was illegally used, said a senior ministry official.

Beijing, 2007

Illegal land use poses major threat (People’s Daily, September 18, 2007)

The booming property market and soaring housing prices have made land sales a lucrative business for local governments. A slew of officials, including some of high rank, have been caught for land-related corruption in recent years, such as siphoning off land sale proceeds or abusing their power to improperly allot land.

Shanghai, 2006

China to scrutinize all land sales since 2005 (People’s Daily, August 14, 2007)

The Chinese government has ordered a scrutiny of all the land sales occurred from January 1, 2005 to Dec. 31, 2007, to spot and deal with unlawful behaviors in this field and to prevent and curb corruption. The Ministry of Supervision, Ministry of Land Resources, Ministry of Construction, Ministry of Finance and the National Audit Office jointly issued a circular saying that the massive campaign will be launched soon and completed in six months.

Shanghai, 2006

Informal urbanism – Between sanctioned and shadow orders (Holcim Forum 2007)

However, as different as their opinions may be, all seem to agree that Shenzhen leapt to its current condition from nothing, and that the former village settlements that were once in the territory have been completely erased by modern urbanization. This paper challenges this generally accepted notion by presenting the “Villages in the City” in Shenzhen as transformations of former agrarian villages and one of the most important instruments to the on-going urbanization process in Shenzhen. Developed outside of the jurisdiction of municipal planning and regulations, these former village sites have each become urban environments in their own right, together presenting a rich variety of informal modes of urbanization. (Juan Du, Professor of Architecture, Dept of Architecture, University of Hong Kong, China/USA, Don’t Underestimate the Rice Fields)