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New type of urbanization is not a justification for grabbing funds

China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-17 07:31

THE CONSTRUCTION OF TOWNS with distinctive local features must not center on demolishing old buildings and makeshift rebranding, said a recent circular issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. Southern Metropolis Daily commented on Saturday:

The development of small cities and small and medium-sized towns with distinctive local features has been in the spotlight since Premier Li Keqiang mentioned it was a key task in this year's Government Work Report. China is expected to have around 1,000 such towns by 2020, and local governments aspiring to build them have access to funds from the China Development Bank.

But the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development is right to take action to curb malpractices, such as the unauthorized demolition of old buildings or the renaming of sites. Among some 300 such towns under construction, few are original and unique as expected. Those pursuing cultural tourism claim they have a long history and multiple cultural relics, yet most of them are newly built. Some are even named after European cities.

Such copycat thinking goes against the efforts to emulate the success of the industrial clusters such as Silicon Valley in the United States, which is home to a string of small towns where numerous tech startups were born, and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, which boasts consistent educational and technological innovations that go far beyond its size.

Their success, to a large extent, is a result of choices rather than administrative orders. Building new towns without good reason could well backfire, because they risk becoming real estate bubbles.

It is not likely that those towns featuring cloud computing and artificial intelligence will all survive and prosper, given their lack of sustainable financing and originality.

The rise of Silicon Valley and other such areas is due to many reasons, but the participation of irresponsible property developers and fund-chasing local governments are definitely not among them.

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