【Beijing Forum 2010】Interview with Yang Kaizhong: More Wisdom to Be a World City
Peking University, Nov. 13, 2010: Professor Yang Kaizhong, Secretary-General of Peking University, has achieved outstanding academic achievements in his multiple research fields of regional science, urban economics, and public planning. As a speaker of the panel session around the theme “Building the Harmonious World City,” he presented a paper titled “The Construction of Beijing as a World City: Theory and Practice” at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Nov. 5.
During the following coffee break, he accepted an interview with PKU News, in which he talked further about the challenges Beijing is faced with, along with his suggestions.
How to Understand the Theme
Unlike the other 30 scholars from home and abroad at the panel, Professor Yang serves as Vice Chairman of the Organizing Committee of Beijing Forum 2010. For the past few months, he has been occupied in the preparations, thus having an overall apprehension of its topic. “Simply speaking, world cities are defined according to their global influences, which appear as capacities of control and command,” he explained.
With globalization strengthening the links among cities all over the world, the economy of metropolis circles entered their most active period. The enormous net of “global urban regions” came into existence, where world cities acted as key nodes. After the global financial crisis in recent years, more unprecedented changes occurred in urban developments. “Given this background, the panel session carries more significance with its current theme,” said Professor Yang.
In his preparative work, Yang considered China's actual conditions as well, “It meets our demands of development to nurture our own world cities.” As he analyzed, the national economy of China needed strategic readjustments towards high-end industries, which were mostly embedded in urban areas.
Beijing’s Way to a “World City”
“On the path to becoming a world city, Beijing has fallen into a ‘trap.’” In this way, Professor Yang began his speech. As Executive Vice Director of PKU Beijing Development Institute, he showed concern on the case of China’s capital, both in his presentation and this interview.
Although Beijing had enjoyed its development at a breathtaking speed for decades of reform and opening-up, the labor productivity seemed to increase obviously slower since the year of 2000. Professor Yang attributed it to the long-lasting spatial economic imbalance across China, “Based on its traditional advantages of all aspects, Beijing has been attracting cheap labor from the whole Chinese mainland, which will no longer happen after the coming transition of economic structures.” In his eyes, Beijing’s distinguished position among Chinese cities was challenged, not to mention the prospective of being a “world city.”
Additionally, Professor Yang pointed out the most pressing problem, “At present, the population has an annual increase of 1.5 million.” The great expansion, as he witnessed, had resulted in several serious consequences, such as more resource strains and social imbalances.
More Wisdom Needed
Professor Yang first gave his response to the swelling population. He disagreed to the popular belief of compulsory constraints, “A good government should never infringe upon civil rights, but you can adjust the environment to influence them.” In his opinion, if a job seeker found none of the work opportunities available in the city, he would leave automatically – the same thing might go for victims of environmental pollutions.
When asked for the institutional problems of Beijing, Professor Yang listed his solutions – to list a few — building a service-oriented municipal government, encouraging more public participations in the administration system, and hiring more experts to supervise the city. He laid stress on the last point, “Early in the 1900s, almost all American mayors introduced specialists into their work of civil administration, known as city ‘managers’ or ‘CEOs.’”
On Beijing’s disputable real estate market, Professor Yang referred to a comparison between Beijing and Los Angeles in the US. “The housing prices around PKU are really higher than those around the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley), but considering the status of the two cities in their respective countries, we cannot exaggerate the difference – of course the speculators should be punished as a precondition,” he commented.
At the end of the interview, Professor Yang once more expressed his optimistic attitude towards the city. “With more administrative measures of wisdom taken, Beijing will live up to a successful world city of competitiveness and innovativeness.”
Reported by: Jin Ludi
Edited by: Jacques