Quality-based urbanization plan outlined

Updated: 2013-12-15 08:11

By Hu Yuanyuan (China Daily)

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Highest-level meeting on issue finds it will drive economy in coming decade

China aspires to achieve quality-based, human-centered and green urbanization, government leaders said after a central urbanization work conference.

The two-day meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, highlighted six major tasks to improve urbanization.

The country must urbanize to modernize, the statement released after the conference said. Urbanization offers means to address rural issues, expand domestic demand and upgrade industry, it said.

It was the central leadership's highest-level meeting on urbanization to date.

China's urbanization rate reached 52 percent in 2012. It was 17.9 percent in 1978.

The process is expected to be the coming decade's primary economic driver.

It should focus on improving urban residents' living standards, the statement said.

Tsinghua University professor Jiang Yi said urbanization should be people-centered, and improve their educations and skill sets.

"It should not be regarded as a target but as a process," Jiang explained.

Urbanization's primary task is to enable migrant workers to gain urban residency status in an orderly manner, the statement said.

A barrier to urbanization has been that China's household registration (hukou) system has prevented migrants from gaining equal access to services in cities.

While more people live in cities than in the countryside as of last year, a large portion of them do not have urban hukou.

The statement pledged to gradually integrate migrant workers into cities; fully remove hukou restrictions in towns and small cities, and gradually ease them in mid-sized cities; and set reasonable conditions for migrants to settle in big cities while strictly controlling megacities' populations.

United Nations' World Urban Campaign chairman Nicholas You said achieving social equality is eco-urbanism's real challenge.

Sustainable urbanization has to make the development of each person sustainable, You said at a forum held by the United Nations Environment Program and the China Merchants Group.

The central government's statement said city clusters should be urbanization's mainstay.

Several city clusters will be mapped out in the country's central, western and northwestern regions to be developed into new growth engines, it said.

Many market analysts believe the urbanization drive will create investment opportunities in infrastructure, environmental protection and retail.

Retail sales of consumer goods will grow as rural Chinese settle in towns and cities. They will spend more on furniture, appliances, food and beverages, and mobile handsets, a report by CITIC Securities forecast.

The government statement also said low-carbon development is key to green urbanization.

huyuanyuan@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 12/15/2013 page1)