Perspectives on Chinese Urbanization


The China Beat

Publication date: 

Thursday, 12 May 2011


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External to ACUI

Project theme: 

The scale and speed of migration into Chinese cities is unprecedented in modern times. Consequently no single state has ever been pressed to alter its built environment so drastically in just one generation. Much has and will be written about this critical period in Chinese history, but three timely recent books stand out. The Concrete Dragon by Thomas J. Campanella lucidly describes the broader aesthetic alterations in Chinese cities during this planning and building boom. Shanghai Rising, a volume edited by Xiangming Chen, explores the complicated nexus of state power and global forces that underpins growth in the eponymous business capital. The Great Urban Transformation by You-Tien Hsing explains China’s furious territorial politics from a geographic perspective. Together these interdisciplinary works speak to the broader aesthetic, cultural, and territorial dimensions of urban China’s (literal) ascent. While urbanization is hardly unique to China, these books all give sufficient emphasis to the national context, and while they grapple with the requisite role of global forces in reshaping local environments, in toto they tell a story of urbanization with Chinese characteristics.