International Development Planning Review

A sustainable development form for metropolises in China: A case study of Beijing

International Development Planning Review (2007), 29, (4), 451–473.

Abstract

Urbanisation and economic development have increased rapidly during the last three decades in China, creating great pressures on and challenges for sustainability. In this context, debates around appropriate urban forms have been a major concern for planners. The concept of the compact city has been supported by international organisations and governments in the Western world, and has been widely debated in the literature. For those who advocate the concept of the compact city, general objectives are put forward, such as the control of urban sprawl, the relief of traffic and environmental problems, and the regeneration of the city centre. By contrast, in Asia, doubts are expressed as to the suitability of the compact city for dealing with Asian urban problems as most Asian cities are compact compared to their Western counterparts. An analysis of the development of Beijing shows that concentrated development over the last 20–30 years has increased the pressures and problems in Beijing in terms of living quality, environment, conservation and transport. This paper argues that the notion of a decentralised compact city would perhaps be more appropriate for the large cities in China, seeking a sustainable approach to accommodate the anticipated population growth and to improve living standards. While the development of appropriate plans and policies is important, the delivery of those policies is more critical and it is essential that an appropriate body is in place to be the driving force for the development of decentralised compact cities.

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Yu, Li