This article was published in ULI Asia Pacific Spring 2009 eNews.
Millions of people in Beijing and other Chinese cities are witnessing a dramatic improvement in the quality of their housing, offices, and where they eat and shop. But what will happen to city livability, traffic congestion, global oil consumption and climate change as more cities tear down once vibrant pedestrian and bicycle-oriented urban districts and replace them with the sort of new, automobile-oriented residential and office towers that seem to be rising overnight along Beijing’s major arterials? Many experts, faced with this dramatic transformation of Beijing, combine a dim prognosis with a search for solutions from Europe and other international good practice locations.
Yet Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province with more than 10 million inhabitants, shows that the search for solutions can be closer to home. If Chinese planning bureaus can learn to facilitate rather than obstruct the kinds of positive revitalization trends which are already taking place, while developers can learn to reinvent the positive characteristics of more traditional communities in new real estate developments, Chinese cities will be well on the way to a sustainable future.