Governance innovation spurs high-quality urban construction


The inaugural Urban Governance Modernization Forum took place in late October in Beijing, where scholars engaged in discussions on various aspects of urban governance modernization in China. Topics included the innovation of urban social governance, the construction of digital cities and intelligent governance, as well as urban operation and the transformation of public finance in the context of urban renewal. 

Digital development

According to Tian Li, a professor from Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture, the key to urban renewal is to balance the relationship between the government, the market, and society. The government mainly conducts policy guidance, while the primary concern for market entities is to maximize cost-effectiveness. For original property rights holders, it is safeguarding their survival and property interests. In response, the diversified strategy of “market-oriented transformation + collective independent construction + informal housing governance” under government coordination has emerged. Resolving urban renewal issues requires the formation of a new type of tripartite relationship to promote the modern development of urban renewal.

In recent years, online payment of utilities, one-stop service windows, and intelligent service management have become part of people’s daily lives. The inexorable progression towards innovating urban management methods, models, and concepts, transitioning from digital to intelligent and ultimately to smart development through the utilization of cutting-edge technologies such as big data, cloud computing, blockchain, and artificial intelligence, is becoming a reality. The School of Architecture and the Department of Electronic Engineering at Tsinghua University are developing a simulator for the transformation of urban “villages” within megacities, capable of modeling the physical and social elements of a population of 10 millions. 

The modernization of urban governance in China is transitioning from government-society “customer service” governance, driven by technological innovation, to government-society-market “co-creation” governance, driven by institutional innovation. Shen Tiyan, executive director of the Institute of Urban Governance at Peking University, noted how primary-level social governance is becoming increasingly trans-disciplinary, relevant, and complex. It is urgent to fully mobilize social forces to participate in primary-level governance, taking on certain of the government’s public service functions to improve the precision and efficiency of urban governance. Through digital and intelligent platforms, more people can be involved in public services, empowering the modernization of urban governance and lowering the threshold of offering public services with “co-governance in one network” and “value co-creation.”

Synergistic governance 

Due to the complexity of its governance subjects and affairs, urban governance consistently exceeds the scope of individual departments, thus possessing cross-boundary characteristics and attributes that span regions, levels, departments, and systems. Yang Hongshan, deputy dean of the School of Public Administration and Policy at Renmin University of China, proposed that introducing time as a key factor to understand the multiple models of cross-boundary governance might help accentuate the laws of transformative governance models, scene changes, and management. Urban cross-boundary governance is divided into emergency, transition, and normal situations. Corresponding to the degree of authoritative intervention, there are three modes: integration, transition, and synergy. However, there is no one-size-fits-all or universally optimal model for cross-boundary governance. Only when the model and the situation are reasonably matched can it be considered the best form.

Synergistic governance represents an integral part of urban cross-regional governance, which requires breaking the mindset of boundaries and shifting from self-governance to regional collaborative governance. Concerning the worldwide challenge of regional governance, the radiation of core cities, driving the coordinated development of urban agglomerations and metropolitan areas, has become a commonplace form of spatial governance adopted by many cities and regions at home and abroad. This avenue has become an “ox nose” to solve unbalanced internal development and inadequate external development of core cities. Shi Xiaodong, secretary of the Party Committee and president of the Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design, highlighted the particularly special status of the capital metropolitan area in the national governance system. Greater strategic support is necessary for enhancing capital construction in the new era, and building a world-class Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei city cluster through planning guidance and spatial coordination.  

Gao Guiguo, director of the China Center for Urban Development at the National Development and Reform Commission, believes that the modernization of urban governance requires different spatial scales to examine the radiation-driven development. Many mega cities are still blindly agglomerating and “sucking blood” due to the mismatch and inadequacy of governance. In fact, when a city reaches a certain scale, it should exert more of its spillover and radiation driving functions, enhance the comprehensive bearing capacity of urban agglomerations and metropolitan areas, and take the lead in creating a growth pole and power source for high-quality development.

The development of mega cities has posed unprecedented challenges to governance structures, planning, finance, and social policies. Liu Zhi, director of the Center for Urban Development and Land Policy at Peking University’s Lincoln Institute, said that mega cities are not only a spatial phenomenon, but also a spatial process that brings benefits and costs. The formation and evolution of urban agglomerations are driven by both economic laws and policy-oriented policies. To make the city cluster economy play a more effective role, good governance and financial allocation are the key.  

The forum was co-hosted by the Central University of Finance and Economics and China Real Estate Business.

Editor:Yu Hui

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