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Scaling-up Strategy as an Appropriate Approach for Sustainable New Town Development? Lessons from Wujin, Changzhou, China

Chen, H and Wu, Q and Cheng, J and Ma, Z and Song, W (2015) Scaling-up Strategy as an Appropriate Approach for Sustainable New Town Development? Lessons from Wujin, Changzhou, China. Sustainability, 7. ISSN 2071-1050

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Abstract

China has achieved rapid urbanization and unprecedented economic booming over the past three decades. Numerous cities and towns dreamed of cloning the miracles of Shenzhen and Pudong, Shanghai, in terms of their international development. However, inappropriate development strategies have meant that the majority of fast expanding urban suburbs or newly developed towns suffer a high ratio of vacant dwellings in real estate markets and a massive loss of farmland. The frequent exposure of these empty cities to mass media or the public has urged urban governments to impose fiscal austerity. These unexpected and negative consequences of urban development have explicit conflicts with sustainability. This paper aims to provide a political economy view of these unsustainable outcomes of new development. To achieve this, the processes and agendas of new city or town planning in Wujin District, Changzhou City, are analyzed and evaluated from the perspective of scale theory. Extensive interviews conducted with local politicians at different levels, planners, real estate agents and local residents facilitate the interpretation of these processes and agendas. It is argued that the legends of Shenzhen and Pudong, Shanghai originate from a modified neoliberal capitalism intervention at the right time and place, with which other peer cities are not comparable. It is concluded that the scaling-up strategy is not appropriate for the local new town development of Wujin, which has led to unsustainable outcomes—empty cities and towns—and created important lessons for the sustainable development of Chinese cities.

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