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, July 21, 2015

A Chinese Megalopolis of 130 Million--Really?

The New York Times reports on a story out of China that the government aims to take the brakes off of Beijing's growth and is foreseeing a future megalopolis of 130 million people. Now, to be sure, Beijing is already the 7th largest city in the world with more than 20 million inhabitants, but it lags behind Shanghai by a few million, and is still far short of Tokyo's 38 million. That seems to be changing.
For decades, China’s government has tried to limit the size of Beijing, the capital, through draconian residency permits. Now, the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Beijing the center of a new supercity of 130 million people.
The planned megalopolis, a metropolitan area that would be about six times the size of New York’s, is meant to revamp northern China’s economy and become a laboratory for modern urban growth.
“The supercity is the vanguard of economic reform,” said Liu Gang, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin who advises local governments on regional development. “It reflects the senior leadership’s views on the need for integration, innovation and environmental protection.”
But the new supercity is intended to be different in scope and conception. It would be spread over 82,000 square miles, about the size of Kansas, and hold a population larger than a third of the United States. And unlike metro areas that have grown up organically, Jing-Jin-Ji would be a very deliberate creation. Its centerpiece: a huge expansion of high-speed rail to bring the major cities within an hour’s commute of each other.
It turns out, however, that this plan is not without its shortcomings. The tax structure in China does not provide local municipalities with their own revenue stream, so suburbs are being built without adequate infrastructure--exactly what we see in Africa and other developing regions. In the end, this is likely to be less of a true megapolis and more of an urban mess. For the sake of the Chinese living in the region, though, I hope that I'm wrong.

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