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[Beijing Forum 2013] Ji Xiaolan: To explore the laws of human-based urbanization

Peking University, Nov. 2, 2013: Experts and scholars from home and abroad gathered at the Yingjie Exchange Centre of Peking University to participate in the Urbanization Panel of Beijing Forum 2013 todiscuss ideas in ‘sustainable planning and diversity’.


JiXiaolan, head of Research Center for Social Security of National Small Towns and vice dean of the School of Social and Public Administration of East China University of Science And Technology, spoke on the topic “To explore the laws of human-based urbanization”.


Professor Ji divided her speech into 5 parts:


1. The current situation and problems of Chinese Urbanization


In this part, Professor Ji first pointed out that despite the rapid urbanization rate throughout China, there was a significant distinction between different regions, especially between the east and the west. The second problem is that the population growth of small towns has slowed down in contrast with the population explosion in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Professor Ji also expressed her concern about the 260,000,000 migrant workers in China who are not qualified to benefit from urban social security.


2. Reflecting on research methods of urbanization


“It is blind to copy the urbanization modes of other countries, as we have different geographic features and cultures.” Professor Ji criticized the phenomenon in modern China of many cities aiming to build an international metropolis, without considering its own features and the demands of its citizens. “We should reflect on excessively concentrated urbanization modes, every city or town should have their own orientation.” She suggested.


3. Acknowledging human demand structure


Professor Ji elaborated on her research on human demand structure. According to her research, the demands of the modern person should involve four parts: the demand of human sensory organs, human demand in different life stages, the demand for survival and the demand for development. She listed necessary urban construction according to variable human demands in this section.


4. Theories on urbanization


Professor Ji introduced 3 theories on urbanization to the guests: Demand Structure theory, Industrial Structure theory and Spatial Structure theory. She believes that industrial structure is determined by human demand structure, while industrial structure accounts for urban spatial structure. She also believes that studying the 3 structures and their interaction will contribute to finding the laws of urbanization.


5. Ideas for building a human-based city


“We have hardly any studies on urbanization from the perspective of human demand. It’s not only the Planning and Construction Department that is responsible for urban construction.” Professor Ji appealed that different subjects, like sociology, politics, ecology and medical science, should be applied to the urbanization process.


“What makes a human-based city? I think it should be a city which not only cares about people, but respects people and educates people.” Professor Ji ended her speech to applause.


In an interview during the coffee break, Professor Ji expressed her regret that the government is delaying introducing China’s Urbanization Plan. When asked about her expectation of the overall plan, Professor Ji hoped that it would focus on the reconstruction of existing large cities as well as the construction of new countryside areas.It is inadvisable to pursue the urbanization rate blindly, and the government should pay more attention to the quality of China’s urbanization. She also warned that ‘once a city is built, it’s difficult to change even a tiny part of the city, so the government bears crucial responsibility when it comes to preliminary planning.”She highly commended the theme of this panel, commenting that“both planners and advisors should take sustainable development and diversity into account”.


Written by: Yan Xin

Edited by: Candice Liao