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Scholars urge urban governance to be modernized

Author  :  WEI SIYU     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2020-08-28

SHANGHAI–As cities grow richer and bigger, they are also supposed to function more efficiently and provide better public services to more inhabitants. However, as cities seek higher performance, so come the challenges of congestion, a higher employment rate, housing shortages, a widening wealth gap and ecological damage. On a recent seminar themed on the modernization of urban governance, scholars talked about resilience, sustainability and balance in city development.

He Yanling, a professor from the School of Public Administration and Policy at Renmin University of China, said that cities are important carriers of the missions of a country. A city is a gathering space for production and citizens. With the concentration of productivity comes surplus profit, which then attracts more capital and induces congestion as well as social and urban space segmentations. Therefore, it is essential to balance public policy regarding urban space, facilities, public services, opportunities and population management. Furthermore, we need to ensure flexibility in policy-making so as to better prepare and deal with the potential dangers that come with a dense population.

She added that governments should be more visionary so as to mitigate the uncertainties caused by social mobility. It may prove more effective to stabilize the society by forming “acquaintance societies” and “self-generated societies” that are made up of “strangers” in the same circle. Urban governance should respect the differences among people. When there is a crisis, citizens of these new societies can jointly defend their shared communities based on their trust for other members.

Chen Gaohong, vice dean of the China Institute for Urban Governance, emphasized the improvement of the structure for urban governance. China’s hierarchy model comes short when dealing with the “small affairs” that concern ordinary people. China’s urban governance system remains to be improved regarding cities’ efficiency in responding to citizens’ demands. We must be more problem-oriented and demand-oriented while adjusting top-down orders to local conditions. Supervision should also be enhanced to reduce formalism and bureaucratism.

Chen noted that communities, enterprises and self-generated organizations have all played their roles in combating COVID-19. The social order of a city is not built once and for all; it takes the help of all sides to build a resilient and multi-layered city. In addition, as technology penetrates deeper into our life, government and society need to enhance communication to jointly build a smart city that truly works for the happiness of all citizens.

Editor: Yu Hui

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