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Scholars propose ways to promote high-quality urbanization

Author  :  GAO YING     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2020-07-24

Recently, an online forum was held by the City University of Hong Kong Shenzhen Research Institute (CityUSRI) and China Urban Forum 100. Scholars who attended the forum discussed the future of China’s urbanization as well as expenditure, collection and balance issues under the constrained resource environment.

Wang Xiaolu, deputy director of the National Economic Research Institute, mentioned that the citizenization of rural migrants is still a weak part in the process of China’s urbanization, as some new urban citizens lack medical social welfare, annuities, housing support, a guarantee of their children’s education, and other public services. Positive citizenization requires the government to deepen reforms in incentive schemes and the financial transfer payment system. Specifically, the reform of the household registration system along with the popularization of public services and social security can be regarded as important criteria for government officials’ performance. Furthermore, the central government’s financial transfer payment to local governments can be linked to public services and social security for local permanent residents. Moreover, unnecessary administrative expenditures and government investment should be reduced while government spending ought to be more inclined to guarantee public services and improve livelihoods.

China’s urbanization has moved from capital growth to operational growth, said Zhao Yanjing, a professor of the School of Architecture and Civil Engineering at Xiamen University. In the stage of operational growth, expenditure has replaced fixed investment and has become the most essential competitive quality for cities. As housing is the basis of asset-heavy investment for families, solving the housing problem could decrease the cost of labor and thus stimulate expenditure and a thriving market. Zhao suggested that urbanization in the new stage should tackle the housing problem first, combine leasing with selling, and give all people access to benefit from the redistribution of resources and wealth and to enjoy equal public services.

Wan Guanghua, director of the Institute of World Economy at Fudan University, said that the key factor to promote China’s continuous economic growth is domestic demand. In the context of the urbanrural divide, rural society has insufficient social security and higher risks in production, and their willingness to consume is lower than that of cities. Only by solving the problem of the urban-rural divide and stimulating rural expenditure can China maintain its economic growth under the current global situation.

Gao Huaizhu, a professor from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, emphasized that urban infrastructure and ecological environment impact people’s health, and urbanization is an irreversible process. As such, urban planning should quantify the influence of urban construction on the environment and health from an interdisciplinary perspective and reflect on specific policies.

Empirical analysis on changes in the urban environment in China after the coronavirus pandemic shows that clean air is an experiential product, said Zheng Siqi, a professor from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With the decrease of urban traffic and productive activities, the air quality has been improved. However, whether the improvement will persist after the pandemic depends on the public’s bottom-up green actions and how the government responds to them.

Zhuo Xian, division director of the Department of Development Strategy and Regional Economy of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that urban expansion has replaced the population flow between urban and rural areas and has become the primary driver of urbanization. That means our country has entered the phase featuring the expansion of core metropolises. Megalopolitanization is an efficient development path to solve urban diseases and motivate the vitality of small and medium-sized cities. As the scale of population flow grows, it is necessary to consider the needs of three groups of people—the commuting population, non-local people with urban household registration, and the short-term migrant population— and allocate public services resources.

Editor: Yu Hui

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