This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Urbanization in China--Big and Ugly

The World Bank has just issued a new report on urbanization in East Asia [note: the full report is here]. A particular focus in the report is on the spatial spread of cities in the region, and I was pleased to see that this effort was led by Professor Annemarie Schneider at the University of Wisconsin. Population distribution data were prepared by Professor Andrew Tatem at the University of Southampton, building on his WorldPop project. I mention these people only to point out that this is a report to which we should pay close attention. As you might imagine, the urban process in East Asis is dominated by China:
The Pearl River Delta in China – which includes the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan – has overtaken Tokyo as the world’s largest urban area in both size and population, with more inhabitants than countries such as Argentina, Australia or Canada.
This is a very detailed report with lots of good tables, figures and maps. It could easily be a textbook in a course on urbanization. But, wait, there's more! You can download the data yourself and do your own analyses:
To encourage further research on urbanization, the World Bank is announcing a two-track competition based on this report. One offers a $1,500 prize for the best visualization of the data, while the other seeks proposals for papers further analyzing the information, with winners invited to World Bank headquarters to present their findings.
The report does not dwell on the quality of life in cities, although mention is made of air pollution. Yet, the deteriorating quality of China's cities seems to be one factor in a story from OZY suggesting that China's millionaires are trying to go elsewhere,
There is a growing trend among China’s richest to use their wealth to move themselves and their families abroad. This is done primarily in the form of investment visas.
On the flip side, a number of countries are opening the doors to the estimated 1 million Chinese millionaires … provided they bring their money with them. It’s something of a bidding war in reverse, for which Australia wins the prize. All it takes is AU$5 million (US$4.65 million) of investment to apply for permanent residency. [Note, by the way, that Australian Aid paid for the World Bank study...]
The U.S., for example, will take just $1 million for a green card, offering residence. That’s for an investment that generates 10 jobs for at least two years, although under the so-called EB-5 program, investment in a public development project can be a less-risky substitute. This figure halves if the investment is in a rural area or in an industry suffering from high employment.
So, from the World Bank study we learn (not surprisingly) that the rich in East Asia (as elsewhere in the world) live in the cities. And from the OZY report, we learn that one motivation to get rich in China is to have enough money to move out of China's cities into another country.

1 comment:

  1. Prof Weeks

    Food for thought. We humans have accepted the patterns of our "growth" in societies, without asking serious questions. Urban sprawl is a classic example of this. As new people reach cities and become city-dwellers, the outlying suburbs grow. Local leaders and mayors form outlying towns. Eventually these are swallowed up into the conglomerate cities. Everyone seems to accept this "pattern of growth" as normal and acceptable. But there are huge problems. The biggest problem is that there is a complete lack of overlying central planning for the cities. How exactly does the city provide basic services for all the people? Does the transport system really work effectively, o not. The process is often a random jumble of city planning departments ... and the real money is made by the land developers.

    ASK yourself one question. Suppose ANY large city in the world faces an urgent crisis that could threaten the lives of thousands of citizens. It could be terrorism, or a major industrial accident, or even a meteorite from outer space. Suppose the evacuation time is only 6 HOURS. Do you think that it could be done? Truthfully, I don't think there are any large cities that could pull this off, and this includes our large cities in the USA. Therefore, when you look at cities today - they have become a kind of "trap" for the occupants. Daily life is "good" (albeit polluted!) ... but only provided a critical emergency does not take place.

    This is one illustration for how the growth patterns of the world are no longer making sense - when viewed from a top-level perspective. I suppose we can say that most global cities will "get away" with this random behavior .. because of sheer luck. But it is not impossible to imagine that within the next decade that some city (somewhere on this planet) will not be so lucky.

    It is just one more example of why top-level planning for the global society is very essential ... if we are to have any chance to survive the 21'st century.

    Dr. Pete Pollock, Redondo Beach, CA