MIT Technology Review (USA), April 28TH, article, with original title: What is bigger than mega-cities? China’s planned urban agglomerations.
China is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate. About 20 years ago, only 30 percent of Chinese people lived in cities; today it is 60 percent. That means about 400 million Chinese – more than the total population of the United States – have moved into cities in the past 20 years (the same proportional shift took 90 and 60 years respectively in Europe and the United States, respectively). By 2035, it is expected that 70% of the Chinese will live in cities.
To accommodate this influx of people, China’s national urban development policy has shifted from expanding individual cities to systematically creating large urban agglomerations. China believes that more regional coordination will promote more efficient investment nationwide. Cooperation could also help alleviate the overpopulation and pollution problems that plague China’s large cities.
By 2035, China will have five major urban agglomerations: the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei urban agglomeration in the north, the Yangtze River Delta urban agglomeration in the east, the Pearl River Delta urban agglomeration in the south, the Chengdu-Chongqing urban agglomeration in the southwest, and the Central Yangtze River midstream urban agglomeration. Some of them have already taken shape, while others are still under planning. In the future, these city clusters will account for about half of the country’s total GDP and house half of the urban population.
Twenty years ago, Fang Hengkun, a university student in Beijing, returned home to Dalian, Liaoning province, for winter break, a 1,000-kilometer trip that took 12 hours by train. He had to get to the train station three hours early each time because “it was the only train of the day. Now a railroad engineer for the Beijing Municipal Government, Fang is busy upgrading the suburban railroad network and planning new lines to meet the capital’s growing transportation needs. His team also plans to increase the number and accessibility of intercity trains connecting Beijing to more than 50 other cities.
By 2035, China will have 200,000 kilometers of railroads, according to a plan released in February 2021. One-third of them will be high-speed railroads, which will then account for about 60 percent of the total mileage of all high-speed railroads in the world. These railroads will be closely linked to other forms of transportation, allowing passengers to achieve “a one-hour commute to metropolitan areas, a two-hour commute to urban clusters, and a three-hour coverage of the country’s major cities.” (By)