China endeavors to create more comfortable living environment for people by expediting urban renewal

Photo taken on March 28, 2021, shows apartments built in a previous village in the urban area of Gongshu district, Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang province, to be rented to young talents. The village has been reconstructed and transformed into a futuristic community. (Photo by Xu Genzhu/People’s Daily Online)

Urban development in China will shift from the old approach of expansion in scale and inefficient growth to a new one that leads to improvement in the quality of development, which conforms to the law of urban development as well as people’s growing needs for a better life, said an official with China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD).


“After decades of rapid development, Chinese cities have already grown in size as possibly as they can and the old urban development and construction model featuring large-scale construction and massive consumption and emission can hardly be sustained,” said Wang Ke, deputy head of the division of building energy efficiency and science and technology of MOHURD.


In its latest Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, China stated that it will accelerate the transformation of the urban development model, make overall plans for urban planning, development, and management, implement an action plan for urban renewal, and optimize urban spatial structure and improve the quality of urban living space.


Implementing the action plan for urban renewal is believed to be an inevitable requirement for adapting to the new situation of urban development and boosting high-quality urban development.


China saw the percentage of permanent urban residents rise to 60.6 percent of the population in 2019, which indicates that the country has already entered the middle and later stage of rapid urbanization.


As urban development comes to the important stage of urban renewal, China decides to shift from the model of large-scale quantity-oriented development to one that attaches equal importance to quality improvement and transformation of existing projects for urban development and structural adjustment to new ones.


The country’s action plan for urban renewal covers various aspects and is expected to exert far-reaching influence on improving the quality of urban living environment and the lives of urban residents.


According to Fang Ming, head of Chinese Institute of Urban Scientific Planning and Design, urban renewal can speed up the development of new economy.


New business forms based on the Internet, including live-streaming, distance learning, telecommuting, and e-commerce, are flourishing in China. These new business forms may no longer need very large plants or development zones, but require a working and living environment that can stimulate people’s creativity.


By transforming and renewing idle or inefficient spatial resources, cities can provide new industries and business forms with more suitable space for development, Fang noted.


Fang believes that urban renewal helps restructure and develop new urban functions. For example, by upgrading and adding facilities and public services, China has guaranteed that cities can perform integrated functions; through updating and densifying urban traffic network, it has also improved transportation efficiency.


Such urban renewal measures can heighten urban vitality while better satisfying residents’ living and leisure needs, Fang noted.


Urban renewal can create new conditions for preserving art treasures in urban space, according to Fang, who considers urban renewal a great opportunity for inheriting historical and cultural heritage in cities, as it not only means protecting excellent traditional buildings and blocks, but signifies preserving the historical and cultural heritage hidden behind them.


Fang pointed out that urban renewal can facilitate the development of new scientific and technological achievements in urban construction. By quickening construction and transformation of new urban infrastructure facilities featuring digitalization, network, and intelligence, China can comprehensively improve the level of urban construction and operational efficiency in cities.


Urban renewal should benefit the overall interests of cities through overall planning, and advance step by step according to the urgency of people’s needs, Wang said. He believes that urban renewal is not the transformation and renewal of a single project, but a systematic program that involves redistribution of urban space.


For example, the transformation of an old neighborhood should not be an independent task, but needs to be integrated to the renovation of the surrounding environment, Wang said.


China should give play to the roles of all sectors of society in promoting urban renewal, according to Xu Leiqing, professor of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University.


So far, many cities have kicked off urban renewal projects and made progress with practices featuring participation of multiple players and multi-channel fundraising, Xu said.


“For instance, the funds for rebuilding old residential areas in Laoshansancun neighborhood in Pudong New Area of east China’s Shanghai were from sources including residents and public benefit crowdfunding activities. Residents and volunteers have also taken part in the reconstruction of the neighborhood, and all sectors of society have been involved in the process,” Xu added.

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