The seminar invited experts from Cornell University and CDI to have discussions on China’s urbanization.
Date: June 18, 2016
Venue: Room 101, CDI Mansion, Shenzhen
Host: CDI, the Cornell East Asia Program, Shenzhen Soft Science Development Foundation
Theme: China’s Urbanization
Over the past 20 years, China has witnessed millions of migrant workers leaving their hometowns to work in the city. Such an unprecedented scale of population flow draws worldwide attention from scholars both at home and abroad. China’s Urbanization Seminar convened experts and scholars, including Professor Fan Gang, President of CDI, and Robin McNeal, Director of East Asia Program from Cornell University, had in-depth discussions over issues of China’s urbanization.
Carol FENG, Director, International Cooperation Department, CDI
Robin MCNEAL, Director, East Asia Program, Cornell University
09:10-11:05 Panel I: Urbanization in China
Moderator: Robin MCNEAL, Director, East Asia Program, Cornell University
09:10-09:40 Urbanization in China
FAN Gang, President, CDI
09:40-09:55 Smart Cities and Innovation
BI Yalei, Assistant to the President, Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology
09:55-10:10 Reflection on China's Urbanization and Metropolises
HU Caimei, Research Fellow, Department of Finance and Modern Industry, CDI
10:10-10:25 Slums amidst Ghost Cities: Incentive and Information Problems in China’s Urbanization
Jeremy WALLACE and Jessica Chen WEISS, Department of Government, Cornell University
10:25-10:40 Urban Village Transformation
ZHOU Lin, Senior Research Fellow, CDI
10:55-11:05 Coffee Break
11:05-12:30 Panel II: City and Environment
Moderator: HUA Ying, Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University
11:05-11:20 Low-Carbon Development
LIU Yu, Research Fellow, Urbanization Department, CDI
11:20-11:35 Modest Proposals for the Reform of Green Narratives
Nick ADMUSSEN, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University
11:35-11:50 Three Quarters of Hong Kong: Nature Writings and the City
Chris SONG, Centre for Humanities Research, Lingnan University,
11:50-12:05 Work, Live & Play: Corporate Real Estate Trends and a New Model of Urban Space
HUA Ying, Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University
12:05-12:20 City Logistics: A 2030 Solution for Mega Cities in China
WANG Guowen, Director, Department of Logistics and SCM
13:30-16:00 Panel III: City and Society
Moderator: GUO Wanda, Executive Vice President, CDI
13:30-13:45 Migrant Workers' Early Withdrawing from Urban Labor Market GUO Wanda, Executive Vice President, CDI
13:45-14:00 Urbanization with Chinese Characteristics
Robin MCNEAL, Director, East Asia Program, Cornell University
14:00-14:15 The Land Problem in Urbanization
ZENG Zhen, Executive Director, Urbanization Department, CDI
14:15-14:40 Producing Ethno-religious Space: Urban Development, Ethnic Identity, and the Hui in Xi’an, China
YANG Yang and Tim OAKES, Department of Geography, University of Colorado
14:40-14:50 Coffee Break
14:50-15:05 Social Governance in Urbanization
MING Liang, Research Fellow, Urbanization Department, CDI
15:05-15:20 No More Tiers: Navigating the Future of Consumer Demand Across China’s Cities
ZHOU Siqi, The Conference Board China Center
15:20-15:35 Internationalization of Tourism in China's secondary cities: The Case of Wenzhou
YE Le’an, Deputy director, Tourism Research Center, Wenzhou University
16:00-16:10 Closing Remarks
Robin MANEAL, Director, East Asia Program, Cornell University
GUO Wanda, Executive Vice President, CDI
President Fan Gang pointed that there are two major problems facing China’s current urbanization: first, can rural migrant workers stay in urban areas? This is the most fundamental question; second, the relationship between large and small cities. “Research shows that migrant workers usually spent 8-9 years working in the city and then returned home for whatever reasons, such a phenomenon is called “Early Withdrawing”, which means migrant workers drop out very early from urban labor forces.” said Fan Gang. He thinks that China’s labor shortage should not be attributed to the decrease of birth rate or population, but the fact that migrant workers and it hard staying in the city.
How to deal with “Early Withdrawing” of migrant workers? Fan suggested a progressive and gradual equalization of public social services is the way out. Government should solve such issues as migrant workers’ employment, pension, health and housing, and their children’s education. With regard to the relationship between large and small cities, Fan Gang holds that at this stage, people will continue flooding to coastal regions and central cities. The most important effect of urbanization is the cluster effect. If this rule is ignored, there will be insufficient planning in large cities, leading to various kinds of “city diseases”. What’s more, there will be excess housing in small cities.
Chinese megacities are generally facing the problems of traffic congestion and rapid rise of house prices. With regard to the future solutions for Chinese megacities, Dr.Hu Caimei from CDI suggested taking the “Metropolitan Area development approach”. In this “Metropolitan Area”, there should be an inter-connected rail transit system, administrative zoning should be decentralized, and a Metropolitan Area statistical system should be established. Bi Yalei from Shenzhen Advanced Technology Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggested using big data to solve the urban traffic problems, and provide a smart transportation solution that improves travel efficiency.
CDI research fellow Zhou Lin approached the issue of urban villages from a global perspective. Zhou noticed the labor demand in Pearl River Delta economy is featured by regular rises and falls. Let’s take iPhone as an example. Before the launch of a new product, there will be a huge amount of orders, which requires a large amount of labor for highly intensified production. However, when this production peak is over, many migrant workers will resign and hunt for their next work. This highly episodic mode of production calls for a tidal labor market to match with. The urban villages in the Pearl River Delta are where the tidal labors live and gather. For example, in Xiufeng Industrial Town, Gankeng Village, Shenzhen, a lot of dormitories have been built in the factory, but they are completely vacant. The vast majority of employees choose to live in Gankeng Village. From the perspective of the tidal labor market, dormitories are not good for the flow of labor, although they are free of charge. In contrast, living in urban villages gives migrant workers a lot of freedom in choosing where to work. They can work in Factory A in the first half of the year, and change to Factory B in the second half of the year while still live in their urban villages, saving trouble of moving out all the time.
It is exactly the demand of the tidal labor market that has led to the rise and transformation of urban villages in the Pearl River Delta. In turn, urban villages have become an important element of the tidal labor market. Without an urban village, there is no tidal labor market. The existence of the tidal labor market and urban villages is very important for the Chinese manufacturing industry to participate in the global competition. Recently, there has been a debate in the US concerning why Apple does not move its production back to the US. A supply chain research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that most of iPhone parts are produced in China, while only a few in the US. Zhou Lin, however, took the issue from a global perspective. He believed that the US might not have a highly flexible labor market to adapt to such a highly elastic production mode.
Nick Admussen, from Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University, gave a presentation on Modest Proposals for the Reform of Green Narratives, and redefined the relationship between cities and nature. He opposed discussing environmental issues with old narratives, and advocated using new narratives to design public spaces. In Nick Admussen’s opinion, traditional narratives define nature as the opposite of human beings. For example, the tourism advertisements, nowadays, encourage people to go to less-populated places, and bring money from the city to the country to initiate new economic activities. The result is that, as tourism becomes more successful, there is more pollution caused by man. He believed that in the future, we need to focus on the big system consisting of air, land, water, weather, animals, plants, and man, as man is only a part of this big system.