SHANGHAI: 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 Ur ban Forum over the
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.
"Besides resource consumption, urbanization brings a lot of problems such as
the widening wealth gap between urban and rural areas, environmental damage, the
lack of social security for unemployed migrant workers and heavy pressure on
transport networks," said Shan Wenhui, director of the Centre for Urban Studies
at Fudan University.
Shi Nan, secretary-general of the Urban Planning Society of China, pointed
out that it would be possible for the country to accommodate 50 per cent of its
population in cities in 2010, since currently about 40 per cent of the
population already lived in urban areas.
He said the government needed to seek solutions for swelling urban
populations and shrinking resources, with developing employment the key to
accommodating migrating rural people in the country's some 600 cities and 20,000
towns in a balanced way.
Qiu said that the country already had urban planning schemes for all levels
and sound urban planning would protect the environment, energy and resources,
respect culture and history, and safeguard the rights and interests of
Currently, three densely urbanized regions have formed along China's coast
the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei
New urban systems are also taking shape in the country's smaller cities and
towns, due to economic development and the absorption of surplus rural labour.
Economic growth is the force driving this rapid urbanization. But other
factors also attract farmers to the cities, Qiu explained, pointing to the
development of transport networks and educational opportunities.
Qiu said: "The country cannot afford to make any mistakes in its urbanization
policy. It has to make very prudent decisions, based on learning Western
countries' lessons and experiences."