Friday, July 16, 2010

Will we be looking to China to teach us how to build a “modern” city?

China's explosive urban growth is a result of the most massive human migration (from the countryside to cities) in the history of humankind. As strange as it may sound, China has no option but to build the greenest, most efficient sustainable cities ever imagined. (GW)

Just How Huge is China's Growth? Staggeringly Huge.

The Infrastructuralist
July 15, 2010

Just how big is China getting? At this point, the country has 60 cities with a population of 1 million or more. By comparison, Europe today has only 35 cities with one million or more inhabitants.

And the numbers are only growing. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, Chinese cities are expected to add more than 350 million people by 2030, which will bring their urban-dwelling population to more than a billion. By then, China will have more than 220 cities with populations of more than a million, and 24 megacities with more than five million inhabitants.

The above graph (click on it to enlarge) depicts the nation’s current cities by population size, from largest to smallest. The least populous is Qiqihar, Northeast China, with 1.04 million, while the biggest is Shanghai, which currently boasts a population of 14.24 million.

All that growth will require a near-incomprehensible infrastructure explosion, which will include massive investments in housing, transportation, water, and energy systems. In the next 20 years, McKinsey estimates that China will build around 50,000 skyscrapers and literally millions of apartment buildings, as well as thousands of hospitals and universities, 170 new mass-transit systems, and hundreds of thousands of parks, schools, fire stations, and community centers.

All of which places China in a unique position: They need to innovate or, essentially die. These cities must be built with levels of efficiency and sustainability that has never before been achieved. There simply is no other option. As for the rest of us — well, in thirty years we may be looking to China to teach us how to build a “modern” city.


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