The impact of COVID-19 — combined with turbulent geopolitics, the uncertainty of global economic development and increasing climate risks — has called into question the sustainability of China’s current form of urbanisation. The three traditional pillars of industrialisation, marketisation and globalisation, which have spurred China’s unprecedented rapid urbanisation over the past four decades, can no longer guarantee the social, environmental and economic benefits that China requires.
To explore China’s new urbanisation path whilst considering environmental impacts and economic and social development, the Coalition for Urban Transitions, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Tsinghua University (THU), and the World Resources Institute Beijing Representative Office (WRI) co-hosted an online workshop on 6th June. Renowned experts were invited to discuss the development opportunities and paths of China’s new urbanisation opportunity under China’s 14th Five-Year-Plan. The workshop was also the launch of our new report: China’s New Urbanisation Opportunity: A vision for the 14th Five-Year-Plan.
Jenny McInnes1Joint Deputy Director of UK government Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – ICF Partnerships and Capability provided opening remarks, expressing appreciation for the programme’s work and emphasising the need for China and the United Kingdom to work closely together to tackle climate change and protect biodiversity. She further stressed that achieving green transitions has become more important since a green economic recovery will maximise emission reductions, create more job opportunities and improve social welfare systems.
As presidents of COP26 and CBD COP15 respectively, the UK and China have an opportunity to work together to demonstrate our international leadership and our commitment to action and ambition.
The report was presented by Professor Ye Qi, Head of our China Programme, Director of the Institute for Public Policy at HKUST and Professor at the School of Public Policy and Management at THU. He shared three engines for a new type of urbanisation that can help China achieve high-quality growth in the coming decade and create an economy based on high-value-added manufacturing and services while avoiding enormous environmental costs:
To unleash these engines, three priorities for national action have been identified with specific recommendations for consideration:
It is a priority for Chinese cities, especially developed ones on the east coast, to peak their carbon emissions during the 14th Five-Year-Plan.
Professor Ye Qi
The Chinese government at all levels is developing post-pandemic economy recovery plans. In his keynote address, Dr. Baoxing Qiu2State Counselor and former Vice-Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Ministry of China and Chairman of Chinese Society for Urban Studies proposed six areas of focus for governments to enhance urban socio-economic resilience and better respond to climate change: installation of rooftop solar panels in older neighbourhoods; improvement of bike lanes; expansion of the ultra-high-voltage (UHV) power grid; increased investment in digital technology; encouragement of street vendors; and increased transit-oriented development.
China’s compact urbanisation model can avoid increasing urban sprawl seen in other countries. Post-pandemic economic recovery means low-carbon green transport like maglev trains, digital infrastructure, and a high-voltage transmission network to integrate renewables into the grid.
Dr. Baoxing Qiu
In his keynote address, Lord Nicholas Stern3IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government and Chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, Fellow of the British Academy, President of the Royal Economic Society and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate spoke of a world facing monumental risks of an economic recession, which greatly influences foreign direct investment, employment and commodity prices and impacts social stability. Considering that the climate crisis will have even more severe ramifications than the pandemic, it is important to clarify China’s role during post-pandemic economic recovery, which Lord Stern outlines in three stages:
2020-2030 is […] a critical time for China to demonstrate its leadership as a major country. China can show the world approaches to bringing forward a low-carbon and sustainable economic transformation in the post-pandemic economic recovery.
Lord Nicholas Stern
Following Professor Ye Qi’s presentation there was a panel discussion on China’s urbanisation opportunity with the following experts: