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A billion seen living in cities by 2030

Stephen Chen
Updated on Mar 26, 2008 – SCMP

China’s urbanisation will continue on an unprecedented scale and pace, to the point where 1 billion people will be living in mainland cities by 2030, according to research by the McKinsey Global Institute.

That means in 20 years Chinese cities will have to provide jobs, housing, food, medical insurance and pension funds for 350 million more people – more than the present population of the United States.

Meanwhile, about 5 billion square metres of roads will have to be paved, 170 mass-transit systems built and 50,000 new skyscrapers – equivalent to 10 New York cities – will appear on the mainland.

Urbanisation at such speed and volume would put huge pressure on the leadership, the report said.

That pressure would include securing enough public funding for social services, dealing with demand and supply for land, energy and water, and protecting the environment. The pressure would intensify despite strong economic growth.

Smaller cities would bear the biggest brunt because they will face insurmountable hurdles in land development, job creation and skilled labour, financing and energy supply.

The researchers said the best solution would be to create more than 20 super-cities as big as Shanghai.

Their argument is partly based on historical records that indicate large, concentrated cities in China perform more effectively than smaller ones.

Concentrated growth would have many positive economic implications, including greater per capita gross domestic product, more efficient use of energy, low arable land loss rates, more efficient mass transit and more effective pollution control.

Policymakers could steer China in that direction by offering favourable land policies, infrastructure investment and preferential political treatment, the report said.

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