Pedestrian Oriented Development (POD): Philosophy of Urbanization in The Next Process
The below contents were extracted from an interview with Chan Kung, ANBOUND's chief researcher.
I. Micro and Operational Perspective
1. In Pedestrian Oriented Development Forum held on 8-9 Nov 2019, Anbound focuses on resolving issues in China's urbanization process, such as traffic congestion, environmental pollution, long commuting time and so on. For example, the action of "evict the low-end population" in the winter of 2017 has left an imperfect spot in China's urbanization process. In your book Crisis Triangle, you once said that "people didn't realize that China's urbanization process had gone too far until it was found that the government debt accumulated to a dangerous level and various problems in the urbanization process began to emerge". Can you elaborate on why China's urbanization process is called "premature" or "excessive"?
Chan Kung: Cities in China are faced with all kinds of problems, such as traffic problems, street problems, buildings, and environmental problems. These problems can be summarized into a system problem, and in the face of system problems, the solution must also be systematic. As you can see, POD principle involves 14 aspects, from planning to architecture, from industry to culture, from transportation to commerce, etc., which means that POD principle and POD city are indeed a systematic solution, which is a kind of correction to China's urbanization process.
China's urbanization seems to be a miracle of human civilization. History has never been such a scale of development. When I was writing this book, the OECD report pointed out that there were more than 500 million people have moved into cities in China within 35 years, and the number of megacities in China has now reached 15; they believed that the world has greatly underestimated the scale of China's urbanization. Therefore, China's urbanization has both positive and negative aspects. Only by looking at problems objectively can we understand its impact on China.
Nowadays, thanks to urbanization, many people have made fortunes in the real estate industry. The process of urbanization has pooled a large amount of capital, which induces the scientific and technological innovation; even Chinese education and academics have benefited from it. Without urbanization, capital, and the expansion of aggregate demand, there is no possibility of such a situation. Also, thanks to urbanization, celebrities are popping up all over the world.
China's development is always prone to go extreme or go astray. Whenever there is a certainly good idea came out, it is certainly easy to get exhausted and such naive policy practices can easily go extreme or even astray.
Originally, urbanization is a phenomenon in the economic development process and an objective result in the process. Perhaps, it is believed that urbanization is a good mean to stimulate and promote economic growth, as a result, the whole country is emphasizing to focus on the urbanization progress, which in turn create problems of increasing debt, urban disease, unreasonable urban space, the sharp increase of asset prices, the sharp increase of living costs, the intensification of social contradictions and so on. (Crisis Triangle didn't mention this point, my suggestion is to skip this part.) Therefore, the so-called "premature" or "excessive" of urbanization arises.
These problems are all related to the speed of development. The progress of urbanization in China is amazing. In 2000, the growth rate of urbanization was only 35%, and now it is about 60%. This indicates China has accomplished what others have done in hundreds of years or more in a short time. In such rapid urbanization, a lot of environmental construction must be carried out, and the construction needs a lot of capital, whereas, within a short time, the money earned from real production is definitely not enough, in other words, this may easily lead to debt problems. So, the key problem of urbanization is the speed of development, the rapid urbanization definitely would create problem for the whole society. Thus, it is recommended to slow down the speed of urbanization, let the city find the balance itself and fix the current problems.
2.When a city suffers from urban problems, it is often related to the bias of urban builders' development and construction concepts. But even if the concepts are correct, there are still existing problems that have to be resolved in urban transformation, such as funds, interests of all parties, as well as the various urban buildings and facilities that have been in existence which are not something that can be solved simply by demolition. Of course, the cities of different sizes should be distinguished too, like the first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and prefecture-level cities like Datong. So, what are your opinions on the advanced construction concepts, and the contradictions in their implementations?
Chan Kung: The use of POD principles to build POD cities and urban renewal is indeed an "advanced construction concept". This concept not only belongs to China, but to the world as well. China was the first country to propose this concept to resolve issues faced by China, yet such urban development issues also exist in cities around the world to a greater or lesser extent. Therefore, such a concept has global significance. Many designers worldwide are quite enthusiastic about the POD forum. For instance, Jan Gehl, the author of the bookCities for People, has sent us an email to support us. Some of Japan's major consortia are also quite concerned about the progress of China's urban renewal. Therefore, compared with the concepts that the Chinese are familiar with in the past, the concept of POD is indeed an "advanced construction concept."
Of course, the use of "advanced construction concepts" will encounter various difficulties. Many people do not understand this well, and some wonder why a concept can have fourteen principles. They do not understand that systematic urban problems must involve multiple aspects, restraints, and interactions, and there must be comprehensive and coordinated solutions. On the other hand, the "one-on-one" solution is very doubtful, and does not conform to the basic principles of the city. There will definitely be difficulties, and the difficulty in understanding the concept is but one of them. Actually, we will encounter more difficulties. The more difficult it is, the more correct the direction will be. If there is no difficulty at all, it means something is not right. This is because urban renewal is a crucial revision process for a city, the so-called amendment is to straighten out the distortions, to fill the gaps, to suppress what is excessive, to vigorously improve the shortcomings, and to foster strengths and avoid weaknesses. All these are part of the complete urban revision process. Sometimes, this kind of correction process is to cure some critical issues, so certainly there will be challenges.
In the past, central policies in China were often in conflict with local realities. For instance, when the central government wanted to engage in urban renewal, but when it comes to implementation locally, things are not applicable like in the past. Recently, a major city in central China has proposed a so-called development concept. The plan attempts to gather all resources in China. From universities to the central enterprises and the industries, all are supposed to be replicated in the city. Such city wants to gather and integrate the characteristics of major cities in China like Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen. From the "resource competition" point of view, nothing is wrong and the concept is very "advanced". Yet, such plan is impossible to be realized.
Things in China are always like this. They tend to get to the extreme side and become quite competitive without leaving survival space for the competitors. However, the market economy has never been like this. A basic principle of the market economy is to let everyone live well and have money to spend. If only one side emerges as the winner and other parties are without resources, it will not be beneficial for everyone. From this point of view, we can actually see that the regional coordinated development advocated by the Central Committee is a spot-on, but it is not how the current local authorities understood it. Take the coastal urban regional coordinated development, the first reaction we see is to duplicate the planning of the Tokyo Bay Area. Things are not that simple, in reality.
In fact, China has never really had any "advanced construction concept". It is for this reason that what had been adopted in the past were actually old concepts. In the future, it is necessary for China to engage in urban renewal and adopt the POD principle.
Some time ago, I was at a TV station at Zhongnanhai for a government program. In the program, I pointed out that for many urban planning in China, due to historical reasons, the American urban model was adopted, which inevitably reproducing the American way of life. These cities have straight-line roads and grids, large and wide roads, industrial areas, and residential areas. The lifestyle completes with huge air conditioners, large refrigerators, and large SUVs. The cities expand horizontally, and the cost of living then rises very quickly, and living there becomes extremely inconvenient. Yet the cities still appear to be "orderly" on the surface. I have pointed out at the time that if we look into urban history, we will find out that many cities in the United States were classified as industrial cities, which means that those were production-based societies and cities. Now these "templates" have been in decline, because they were created for the purpose of industrial productions.
This was applicable to the Chinese cities in the past, because China was a "world factory" at that time. However, now there are "world factories" are all over the world. India, Vietnam, and even Bangladesh and Indonesia are the new "world factories". What should the cities in China do in the future? If they continued the old ways, there will be big problems. In reality, they will not even be able to follow the old ways. Therefore, urban renewal is necessary to change the production-based cities to consumer-oriented cities. This means that the major Chinese cities must first be consumer centers, so that they can give up more spaces for marginal regions and cities to engage in production, allowing their industrial resources to exert their functions while the major cities could consume the resources as well. Such is the main direction and although the transformation may be difficult; it cannot be avoided.
There are many examples of so-called "advanced ideas". Concerning the layout of "industry parks", there are many huge problems found in various parts of the world. In some places in the United States, the population is only a few hundred thousand, but the industrial scale is quite large. In this case, when the main industry lost its competitiveness, its population would immediately reduce to half. There are many lessons on this for cities. Whether business is only a supporting part of a city or its core, this would be of main concern in urban planning. There is also the construction of the Bay Area. Actually, for the Tokyo Bay Area in Japan, the Japanese government has been insisting on the policy of decentralization, but on the contrary China has begun to vigorously promote it. In general, the "advanced ideas" we think may not be really advanced. There are too many people following the instructions of the authorities, and as China is a huge country, it would not be easy to change this situation.
3.You seem to be particularly optimistic about the role of the government in the Nordic countries. Can you give us an example of the history of these areas in urbanization and the experience that is particularly example worthy?
Chan Kung: Concerning Europe, what I am impressed the most is the understanding of the speed of development.
The world's cities can be roughly divided into four types. The first type is the Scandinavian-European type, this is a classic and traditional city. The second type is the American and the industrial production city, this is the type of city that has experienced large industrial wave. The third type is the transitional city, and the fourth type is undeveloped city. My views on world cities are these four types. Such divisions play a vital role in understanding the meaning of urban development.
I have frequently said in the past that all problems in China are issues concerning speed. I have always been an advocate of stable economic development for China. The reason is that my understanding of the speed of economic development is very different from that of China's leading public opinion and scholars. In many cases, the rapid development is not necessarily a good thing. If you look at the development of the country and the city in a long period of time, you will find that the countries, regions, and cities that are "slow" in developmental speed may have more effective economic development.
In Scandinavia and Europe, the economic growth rate is very slow, and people would be happy if the growth rate could reach 2%-3%. In contrast, for China, the Chinese would consider a growth rate below 10% to be too slow. In terms of speed, China is five times of other countries. The problem is that we can also find that countries and cities with slow economic growth are developed countries and they are often at the top of the world's competitive food chain. China's economy is growing fast, but it is a developing country. There are still many poor people in China, even after the various poverty alleviation efforts. The result of this comparison is very strange: those with slower growth rate is richer than those with higher one. So, which is better? Slow growth rate or high growth rate?
Some people say such is the stage that all countries and cities in the world will go throw, from a high growth rate to slow growth rate. My opinion is that while this is true, something is not right about it.
In fact, this kind of "growing fast first" is more common in the second type of countries and cities. These countries have all been through industrialization. At the beginning, they were very poor. An example of this is the United States. In the 19th century, it began to rise through industrialization and manufacturing. At that time, Britain, which colonized North America, was actually more developed and prosperous than North America itself. Therefore, the United States was also a country cough-up with industrialization. It engaged in industrialization and manufacturing, which resulted in a large number of small towns getting prosperous, with urban areas surrounding industrial and manufacturing areas. The result is that the bars in the United States were not the same as those of European countries. Basically, a bar in the United States was a simple shed, which allowed workers to get together and drink. It is very simple. Industrial production was mainly production, followed then it was followed by lifestyle. Hence, businesses and lifestyles were in a subordinate position in the city. Much of the infrastructure, like roads and bridges in the United States were actually built in the 19th century, that is, the era of the great industrialization of the United States. The problem is that after the United States grew rich and powerful, and becomes the world's primary superpower, this "catch-up" fails to allow it escaping from its destiny.
A large number of towns becomes abandoned, what used to be thriving industrial towns, and some of the former 18 major cities in the United States have now declared bankruptcy. Although the infrastructure had been built and at one point ahead of the world, now they are dilapidated. The gap between the rich and the poor is extremely huge. There is a large working-class population, and job mobility is low. The citizens' debt is growing, while the sense of crisis and dissatisfaction of the middle class is growing stronger. The rapid growth rate of the past cannot be maintained at all. This year, there is a 4% growth rate, which is enough to make President Trump ecstatic. In the normal years, the economic growth rate of the United States was around 1%-2%. Scholars often say that this is a post-industrial problem as we entered the post-industrial era, or so on. This is actually an inevitable fate if such path is chosen.
In the case of Europe, although its economic development is slower in the longer cycle, it is still rather stable. They are the first type of countries and cities mentioned earlier, as they realize that it is not a good thing to develop too fast. They know that it is necessary to put more resources and capital in consumption, culture, education, for things outside of production that are long-term and stable. This is especially true for Old Europe and In Northern Europe. Although their growth speed is five times slower than China, they have been far more stable than the second type of countries and cities, and they certainly have not become "poor" and "backward". Therefore, the speed of development is something that is relative. If the speed of development is too fast, the outbreak of the economic crisis will also be faster and more intense.
If the speed is too fast, more problems will accumulate. A city that used to be a built-up area of 100 square kilometers now has expanded to a built-up area of 300 square kilometers. If the subway is built, it should cover the same level of connectivity. The construction cost of the latter is twice as high as the former. So, what has to be done, has to be done. Then there will be more debts. Such is the complexity of China's development.
In reality, China is the second type of country. The central government of China hopes to move toward the third type of country, which is a successful transformation. What is the rational way of development for this type of country and city? The answer is balanced, stable development. As you can see, the POD principle emphasizes moderation and long-term development. Many cities now position themselves to achieve "livability", but how can this be achieved? Looking at the actual layout and positioning of many cities, people who are engaged in professional city research can easily find out these cities are not really livable. Take traffic convenience as an example. In the past, people can do several things within the same day in the same city, yet now they can only do a single thing. This is definitely not livable.
China must move forward to the consumer-oriented society. This is no contradiction with production; it is only in contradiction with singular, blind production which will also be a huge contradiction measured in terms of global competition. The biggest problem for some urban planners in China is that they thought China's position as a "world factory" can last forever. Therefore, the major challenge for Chinese cities is to establish themselves as consumption centers. It is more important for the people living there to feel safe, healthy, and comfortable.
4. In yourCrisis Triangle, concerning solving the economic crisis and urbanization, you mentioned that after the world is recovered from economic crisis, it would once again restart even larger scale of urbanization, and this is without any other option or exception. In this regard, you propose three solutions. The first is that the government has macro-control power for "large-scale scrapping and suspension of tax debts and capital". The second is the direction of global welfare, and the third is currency reform worldwide. China seems to have made some efforts in these three areas. For instance, China's efforts in urban construction in Shenzhen, its Belt and Road Initiative, and the internationalization of Chinese currency. From these three directions, can share with us your opinions?
Chan Kung: I have talked about the Crisis Triangle model in my book, and from the book reviews I noticed that many people do not understand this model. This model is actually not a mathematical model but a structural and systemic cognitive framework. Many people now talk about their opinions on the TV, magazines and internet, though these opinions might not always be academic. Academic opinions should be systemized, integrated and self-sufficient in explanations. Such opinion is not to grab attention, and it would be good to express in structuralized model, like the Crisis Triangle model.
Such systemized expression can be difficult to understand, and that is pretty much model. Academically speaking, I am a left-wing policy scholar, that is why I think capitalism and market economy have their own inherited problems and flaws. They are not perfect, and it would not be possible to go beyond them. Therefore, it is highly important to understand the meaning of balance in such systems, and the catastrophe caused by imbalance. No country in the world is doing anything effective to stop what is outlined in the Crisis Triangle model, and everyone is heading to a crisis, and it is only a matter of how fast they are heading.
The Crisis Triangle is a dead cycle. Urbanization and constructions require capital, and the more intense urbanization is the greater capital accumulation will be. This results in capital surplus which in turn lead to economic crises, including financial crises. After the crises, there will be another round of urbanization of different levels. This is the definition and explanation for the Crisis Triangle model, and such model is a cycle that appears under the guise of different levels and reasons. While this model seems to be easy, when it manifests itself in the reality, it would be rather perilous. I admit that this looks pessimistic, but I have no reason to be optimistic.
For theCrisis Triangle book, I hope to express my views graphically, this is easier to make people think than just pure theories. I would feel satisfied if it can make people to think.
People need to seriously think about cities and their problems in the reality. The three solutions I proposed in my book are somewhat Utopian, as I have mentioned in the book. The first is the use of governmental power, that this through financial write-down. A more extreme is through war. The second one is spending the money through global welfare. China spends some of its money in its Belt and Road Initiative too, and that creates certain controversies. The third way is through global currency reform to resolve oversupply of currencies. This is currently being done, though it has its shares of controversies as well. I am inclined towards gold standard, while some support cryptocurrency like Bit Coins. However, we are at the age of geo-capitalism, and any currency would need geo-political power as basis, like the U.S. dollar and the British pound. This far exceeds what can be understood in financial studies. Nonetheless, we see that when the reality, ideals and concepts are binding up together, problems and conflicts would erupt. This seemingly simple model is not all that simple.
Speaking of reality, let us take Shenzhen as an example. Shenzhen is a city, and a city cannot control its own fate. As explained in the Crisis Triangle model, you can hardly escape from a crisis. While a city like Shenzhen might fare better than others, it will not be able to evade major crisis. When its development reaches certain level, or even exceeds a developed country, it will seek for balanced development. A city's development policy cannot be too radical and it cannot eternally look for high growth. That is unrealistic, even for a city like Shenzhen.
The Belt and Road Initiative is compatible with the Crisis Triangle model. This Initiative is full of controversies and this has caused phased changes to appear. At first it was the New Silk Road, which later becomes Belt and Road. It evolved from integrating coastal and inland to only emphasizing coastal regions while discarding inland. In addition, it started as a layout of industrial chains, and now it is dominated by infrastructural construction. Initially it is a strategy and now it is an initiative. All these changes are quite obvious, and it is aiming for the globalization of welfare. All these show the subjective effect and the objective purpose of the Crisis Triangle, and it is rather difficult to resolve all these problems.
Let us look at the internationalization of the renminbi, which could help to promote global currency reform. Yet because of the status quo of geo-capitalism, things are not as simple. Although some achievements are accomplished, but the internationalization of renminbi started too late and it misses the windows period, so it does not move in fast paces. The future is not about whether the renminbi will be internationalized, but if it can be stable. I believe that China must maintain the renminbi exchange rate's internationalization. If this direction changes, it will cause more pressures to China and the country will have lesser bargaining chips in the international scene.
For people like us, theory and reality are one, although when it comes to practicality it is a different story.
II. Macro-viewpoints and theories
The Chinese version of the bookCrisis Triangle was published in 2016. Two years have since passed, what would you like to add or correct when it comes to the theory outlined in the book? What are the realities that have been verified in the course of two years?
Chan Kung: It only took me two weeks to write the book. A real researcher must have mastery of words, and those who cannot express themselves well are not real researchers. Now when I think back about the book, I still find it quite interesting. Even until now, while I do not find there is any error in the book, I feel rather pitiful because there are quite a number of things that I did not explain well. If I did, more people would be able to understand it. What is right about the book is that things are moving towards the expected direction, and it the situation is becoming worse. Some people in the past refuse to acknowledge this, but now they do, in one way or another.
Of course, at time those who hold wrong views thought they are correct. There are people who said I am too pessimistic. They said the world's economy is just doing fine, like the United States. This are actually based on researches at different levels. For most of the economic and financial theories, their systems are relatively micro, and more often than not they use assumptions to simplify the issues. If we are doing academic researches there is no problem with this, but if this will be problematic if it is applied in public policy research.
So, whether something is right and wrong, we have to determine it from the reality.
Now we can see that urbanization is more common than before, not just in China, but also in India. China seems to export its urbanization model, and the world is in another round of monetary loosening. All these are plainly visible from news reports. Not long-ago Europe and the Federal Reserve are reinstituting monetary loosening policies. At first, they were planning to hike the rate, but this optimism disappears just in a few months. Europe's actions are bolder while the United States is relatively more cautious. Because of the scale and speed of the monetary easing do not reach his expectation, U.S. President Donald Trump had huge arguments with the Federal Reserve for more loosen monetary policy, and he even publicly expressed his disappointment for appointing the current Chair of the Fed.
In my view, things have not changed a bit. That Crisis Triangle model is still functioning, and I am not sure if I can be more optimistic in the future. Chinese nowadays need two things the most, earning profit and finding solutions. For the first one, they can look for banks and capital markets, and for the second one they should find think tanks and public policy researchers. However, the opinions given by these researchers might not always be happy ones, yet they reflect the actual reality. Although such opinion might not be considered to be classical today, maybe they will be tomorrow. In any case, those are other people's matter and do not concern me.
You previously mentioned: "Artificial and exaggerated urbanization will one day find its footstep slowing to a stop. When this day really comes, the real face of the truth shall be revealed." Therefore, for the "exaggerated progress of urbanization" to meet the elements of the country's "Belt and Road Initiative" and "Precisive Alleviation of Poverty", will it be able to reduce pressure on "excess capital"? And with regards to the "face of the real truth" that you mentioned, how is it in reality?
Chan Kung: The "Belt and Road Initiative" and "Precisive Alleviation of Poverty" is the popularization of welfare. At the level of public policy research, there is no problem with this at all and it is completely in line with my definition inCrisis Triangle. The Belt and Road Initiative is thought to have cost 400 billion U.S. dollars, but the Ministry of Commerce does not appear to think so. In the five years from 2013 till now, direct investment comes up to a sum of 90 billion U.S. dollars. Because the nature of poverty alleviation efforts is much more complex to calculate, assuming a calculation of simply offering a loan to alleviate poverty, this has cost trillions. These figures are not small sums, but putting them aside with the size of China's capital stock and you will realize that they are not worth mentioning, hence the actual problem cannot be solved. The size of China's capital stock is fundamentally an economic problem that needs to be calculated with accuracy. Most scholars deduce and calculate this through the PIM (Permanent Inventory Method), and the results are controversial to say the lease, going up into the trillions and above the scale. Although this might be the "precise" calculation of economists, it is normal to say that this difference in the data is one to two times higher. Some say that there are more than 100 trillion yuan pumped into infrastructure alone. From a financing perspective, the scale of social financing stands at 21,940 trillion. In sum, despite there being some efforts to popularize the said benefits, the scale is still far too small, and does not work compared with capital stock. To speak frankly, nobody really has an idea of how much money China really has. On the issue of excess capital however, there are some points that needs to be talked about.
How then will the present and future of China be? It has now reached the crucial stage of grasping the capital markets well. There are two things that need to be understood. The first is that in order to recognize excess capital, it must be also understood that excess capital or capital surplus is a root problem. In addition to the gross overcapacity, it also presents big problems for both the stock market and other capital markets. There was a time when China's capital markets were innovating, and were trying to put a fusing mechanism in place. As a result of this though, China's capital markets were flushed with capital capable of creating waves and turmoil, while other capital markets outside China did not have this problem. Because of this, the Chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission at that time stepped down. One could just imagine the amount of capital volume that was present in the capital markets. This year, the central government has begun to allocate some provinces to the deputy governor of finance to take charge of. This unprecedented measure was unheard of before this, and just shows us how many problems there are with capital and the surplus of capital.
Therefore, if the fact that China has excess capital is still not recognized now, then the situation is pretty dubious. Along with acknowledging that there is a capital surplus must also come along with acknowledging that this is a huge problem. If China's previous development and construction is more on production and projects, then China's development in the future will increasingly depend on capital and the construction of capital markets. I always have this view: If we were to give the Premier of the State Council an important suggestion, it would be that projects on China's development needs to be stopped and that market construction needs to be grasped. The projects mentioned here refer to big projects, and the direction here refers to the development direction. These problems cannot be misconstrued, and any misconstruing on these problems will bring about chaos. I'm not sure if everyone agrees with this point. For decades, I have been a think-tank scholar. It is my profession, and my profession is to make suggestions, not beat around the bush. Being straight and frank about one's own ideas and suggestions is the requirements of professional literacy expected of a think-tank scholar. A think-tank scholar cannot afford to be like a theoretically based scholar, turning around circles and stretching lines of thoughts to explain problems. A think-tank scholar also cannot be like the media, and have to make the confusion and sensationalization of the media straightforward and clear. As a person who studies public policies, there are certain expectations and requirements.
I feel that China still has an opportunity in the future, but there is an important criterion. This criterion is that there needs to be a determination to solve the problems in constructing capital markets. If this problem is left unsolved, in the conditions of excess capital, the window for maneuvering and turning back will become smaller by the day. In this situation, minor external factors will bring huge turbulence. Therefore, the capital market is an important aspect, and a key point for present and future development stages. If the capital market is well established, although excess capital will still create problems, the room for maneuvering is bigger, and even if problems break out, it will not bring about too big of a concern. In this background, the problem will pass after bearing a few tough days. The world will go on. If this is not done, then the projects of today will be important, and so will the projects of tomorrow. The decision-making process is dominated by the influence of capitalists, and the development of China will be faced with huge problems. I sincerely hope that China's decision-makers, in grasping the capital markets, their subsequent reforms and opening-up, must have this common knowledge. They need to build a common viewpoint and give their all to manage the U.S.-China trade war. However, this matter cannot be simply disturbed.
For the development of urbanization, you feel that the city should return to its more human side, and that the builders of cities need to channel philosophy. How should we comprehend the "humanity" and "philosophy" aspects of urbanization that you have mentioned?
Chan Kung: This question is pretty complex, and I will only touch on it briefly. As a researcher who studies about cities, I have a lot of stories. I will often raise some ideas, and at key points I will also issue warnings. A lot of matters and questions that are being discussed now are actually things that I clearly warned about a few years ago. For a researcher on cities, not discovering problems and being unable to come up with suggestions is equal to not doing anything at all.
In reality, each city's situation is different. Each city's decision makers have their own ideals, and given the chance, they will try to put their own dreams and hopes, and in a way their own way of thinking into action. There is no problem or mistake with this process, but the key point is rather how are these dreams and aspirations? How the aspirations and dreams turn out is obviously a problem of values. Therefore, when I am talking about urbanization, the key is to look at urban philosophy. In the depths of the appearances of each city in the world, there is an underlying and hidden urban philosophy within. In China, people might think that a 16-lane hoghway is a kind of beauty in itself, but people in Europe might not necessarily share the same views. They feel that hybrid pedestrian vehicle lanes less than 10 meters in width are beautiful, comfortable and convenient. The reason for this difference in opinion is none other than urban philosophy and not technology or standards.
In cities, a lot of people know that proper planning is important, but will you be able to plan people's lives? Shops have become outlet malls that are physically far away from the center of living. To buy soy sauce, you are now forced to drive your car in order to do so. And once it is expected that this should be the way, life will be forced to follow and there will be no alternative. Therefore, urban planning is in reality forcing people to live a life modeled by someone else. This seems hard to digest, but in reality it is still developing. At this time, what then can you do? Of course, you will want to rely on urban philosophy, and hope that the person wielding the right to plan cities will have a more historical perspective on urban philosophy, and also have a bit more modernity in order to give more space for humanity. At these times, city philosophy will play an important part. Urban philosophy is not something filled with mystique, it's just that there are too many people who don't understand it and even more people who haven't even heard of it. Therefore, in cities like this, where all the puzzle pieces are already put in place, what then should be done?
A classic city is one who is always equipped with the ability, space and that realizes organic growth. A city like this will be able to self-repair, self-adjust and even self-repair when disadvantages are present. Taking the analogy of a piece of white paper, filled to the brim with scribbles. Just like a paper left with no space left to draw, a full city similarly can only rely on urbanization to refresh itself. For the so-called urbanization, in reality the central government is far-sighted, and requires people to develop based on the foundation of stored urbanization. One way that was done in the past is the 1+1 = 2 method. Presently however, what needs to be done is 1 = N. It means that all sorts of tweaks and changes must be done on the foundation of 1, in order to produce the result of N. This will ensure that cities will never fall behind. This is also a method of development, and is in fact the renewal of cities. In reality, every architect will tell you this bit: - they have the ideas and skills to ensure that old, abandoned buildings, as well as unsightly and despised shanty towns are transformed into new, attention-grabbing buildings.
A new era requires a new philosophy of the city, giving people more space and not always placing the emphasis on production. Sometimes, it requires an emphasis on life. This then is the real improvement of cities.
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