Urbanization campaign must avoid 'ghost towns'
Published: Mar 19, 2014 12:23 AM Updated: Mar 19, 2014 09:28 AM

The State Council on Sunday unveiled China's urbanization plan for 2014-20. The plan, which promises to put people first, is considered to be filled with fresh ideas and higher standards. All Chinese expect it to become a reality.

The blueprint of the central government is made from a grand perspective. But preventing the plan from slipping into an extensively enclosed campaign of construction at local levels depends on city planners, including CPC municipal committee secretaries and mayors, as well as whether market vitality can invigorate urban building.

Industrialization has led to the rapid emergence of some cities in history, most of which have undergone a long, arduous process. Cities like Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, are built upon resources. They were driven by industrial development but may provide little value for today's urbanization endeavor. 

The urbanization of present-day China is an unprecedented period pushed by the urgent demand to transform the rural population and central authorities' top designs. China has no other option but to produce more cities. This is not only a driving force for urbanization, but also a unique challenge.

The development of modern cities is intertwined with industrialization. In other words, every city should have its own industries to create enough job opportunities. Chinese city planners are adept at constructing buildings, but boosting employment through means other than infrastructure construction baffles many of them. The core task of urbanization is improving people's livelihood and increasing citizens' incomes by creating more high-paid jobs, which is more difficult than propelling employment.

Small cities should pay heed to developing their uniqueness and advantages over medium- and large-sized cities in attracting young talents. They should enrich their cultural and spiritual features. This is not easy.

Chinese cities have all taken on a similar, monotonous look in recent years. Several mega cities have concentrated the majority of the cultural elite, while medium- and small-sized cities with competitive industries and cultural talents are relatively few.  Addressing these problems is an urgent task. Otherwise, small cities and towns could become a burden on the country in the future. 

Half-completed buildings and "ghost towns" that have failed to attract investment can be seen in many places in China. We hope not to see a surge in the number of functionless "ghost cities."

Urbanization is a process of employment expansion, industrial upgrading, and cultural regeneration. The just-released urbanization plan provides the blueprint. It's important now to have a group of outstanding city planners to turn the plan into reality, through mobilizing the market and the whole of society.

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