|Renata Lok-Dessallien, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China, delivers a speech at China’s 2013 National Human Development Report launch in Beijing on Aug. 27, 2013. (People's Daily Online/ Gao Yinan)|
People’s Daily Online Aug. 28, Beijing –“China is experiencing urbanization at a speed and scale that is unprecedented in human history,” said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, at China’s 2013 National Human Development Report (NHDR) launched on Aug. 27 in Beijing.
The report said that in 2011, there were more people living in China’s cities than in its countryside for the first time, when only six decades earlier a mere 10 per cent lived in an urban setting. “By comparison, this same demographic transition took 150 years to occur in Europe and 210 years in Latin America,” said Clark.
According to the report, the urban population is forecast to grow by an additional 310 million people to 70 percent of the total population by 2030. By this point, over 1 billion Chinese people will live in cities. By 2030, cities will be home to 70 percent of China’s population and generate 75 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.
According to this report, China’s urbanization comes at a critical time on all three fronts, with pressures accumulating in matters such as the efficient use of natural and energy resources, the development of urban governance systems, employment, transportation, housing and access to basic social services, security, the livelihoods of migrant workers, an ageing population, structural economic transformation, and air and water pollution. How urbanization is managed in China will determine the outcome of many of these challenges.
“Sustainable human development is about enlarging people’s choices by expanding their capabilities and opportunities in ways that are sustainable from economic, social and environmental points of view, benefiting the present without compromising the future. We believe urbanization should be guided by the same principle”, said Clark.
Framed in the context of urbanization, the 2013 NHDR entitled Sustainable and Liveable Cities: Toward Ecological Civilization examines the interconnectivity between China’s economic, social and environmental challenges, and stresses that all three are pillars contributing to the government’s focus on human development.
“The vision and principle of eco-civilization should be fully integrated into the whole process of urbanization, and we should take a new urbanization path which is intensive, smart, green and low-carbon,” said Wang Weiguang, President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) during the launch event. The report is a joint effort between UNDP and the Institute of Urban and Environmental Studies of CASS.
The concept of Ecological Civilization has been adopted by the country’s leadership. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stated during his visit to Shanghai and Jiangsu in March 2013 that the core of the urbanization is to improve the quality of urbanization; the purpose of urbanization is for the benefit of the rural people. Urbanization should not be creating cities; instead, the new model of urbanization should be human-centered and should ensure the prosperity of the people.
The report also draws attention to the opportunities created by urbanization in China. It argues that urbanization can accelerate the modernization process and economic structure upgrading, and be the strategic focus in changing the country’s development profile from a GDP-focused export-orientated economy to a more stable, human development-based one.