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China is known for having a strong central government. In many ways, this perception is very true. Unlike countries like the United States which clearly delineate federal and local (state) powers, all governmental authority in China flows from the central government. Over the past several decades, however, the central government has gradually delegated power down to local governments. Local governments now have significant decision-making authority when developing policies.

Though decentralization has spurred economic growth, it has also brought challenges. In particular, there has been a rise in local protectionism, with local government officials focusing on growth in their own municipalities at the expense of surrounding areas.

The Chinese government increasingly needs to balance the priorities of central and local governments. Furthermore, many problems, including environmental protection, are just handled better on a regional rather than city level. As such, there has been significant growth in the rise of regional plans over the past decade. View full post »

  • May - There appears to be some confusion here. The article is talking about horizontal regional governance. This is something new for China, some areas are taking the lead. However, when it comes to vertical regional governance China is a world leader. Most advanced systems that use regional governance have both vertical and horizontal systems.

    US Scholars begged President to encourage regional governance in US- now even behind some African countries-but he chickened out.
    See:
    http://artvoice.com/issues/v12n30/news_analysis.html
    Detroit is America

    Smart countries know that regional governance boosts local economies. You can see contrast in US where rust belts are growing;and in Europe where regional governance has helped to transform economies, for example the Ruhr and Eindhoven.ReplyCancel

  • May - County level cities are regional systems, so are prefecture level cities and provincial level cities. In fact the last two types contain regional systems within regional systems.

    So what regional governance do you mean? Seems to me this article is about the need for horizontal systems.ReplyCancel

  • Daniel Hedglin - Hi May,

    When I speak about regional governance, I am primarily referring to a level of government that would be below the provincial level but above the local level. In particular, I am referencing Chinese attempts at regional governance in the Jing-Jin-Ji area, the Pearl River Delta area, and the Yangtze River Delta area.

    I think there is great importance in improving horizontal cooperation across cities and even provinces. Problems quite often are too complicated to handle at local levels, and regional governance would help in these situations!ReplyCancel

    • May - US is highly fragmented. By contrast Chinese cities are integrated, so they have regional governance. They changed their system during the Reform period. Chinese systems are more like Tokyo and Seoul;but go much beyond that to include systems within systems for instance a provincial city can include regional systems and within them county systems. These are vertical systems.
      Now consider in France, they have regions, departments and communes. That is the French vertical system. Then they have inter communal cooperation bodies, urban communities, and the new metropoles. These are horizontal bodies. The vertical bodies in China are generally deeper than European and Western systems. But you have to consider the fact that China has many more people.
      China also has insitu urbanization and the leading province for that is Jiangsu. This happened because of rich villages, which happened because of its successful township and village enterprises.
      In developing countries, nonagricultural income sources are the need of the hour.ReplyCancel

    • May - Check this out:
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3619934/Forget-fats-s-PROCESSED-food-worried-academic-claims.html
      Reimagining Local Government Conference
      Chapman University
      Metropolitan Governance Reform
      By Myron Orfield and Baris DawesReplyCancel

    • May - By the way, Turkey also add regional governance integrated local governance)to meet EU requirements. Its urban systems are vertical and now it is enjoying its fruits. In fact, it wants to increase number from 16 to 29! Four Turkish cities (metropolitan municipalities)in top 10 of latest Brookings list:
      “Four Turkish cities made the top 10: Izmir, Istanbul, Bursa and Ankara.”
      http://www.theguardian.com/ business/2015/jan/22/china- best-performing-economic- cities
      In race for best economy, China handily beats Houston, London and other Western cities

      Its horizontal systems were introduced in 1960s are basically service sharing systems.ReplyCancel

Chinese SprawlWhile Chinese cities are growing at an unprecedented pace, much of this growth isn’t what most city planners would consider “smart” — that is, growth that is efficient, equitable, and environmentally sustainable. Instead, most Chinese cities are experiencing high levels of sprawl. This has led both Chinese and international pundits to focus on the issue of Chinese sprawl, with some even asking why Chinese cities haven’t learned lessons from American cities. Is sprawl a sign that Chinese leaders don’t know what they’re doing?

In theory, sprawl can be limited by good planning. In practice, sprawl is an exceedingly challenging phenomenon to stop. Though there are numerous complex reasons for the growth of Chinese sprawl, there are three systemic factors driving Chinese cities’ expansive growth: unprecedented Chinese growth, local government budget dependence on land sales, and the importance of GDP growth in the Chinese political promotion system. View full post »

Beijing-Subway_enBeijing Subway Map

It is virtually impossible not to marvel at China’s new subway systems after spending some time in a city like Beijing or Shanghai. The relatively new subway systems allow for convenient and affordable (albeit crowded) way to travel around these cities. These infrastructure investments will certainly leave a lasting impact on Chinese cities for years to come, but what will this legacy be? View full post »

PRC cover

Nothing threatens the stability of China’s economic miracle more than the hazardous levels of pollution generated by rapid development. The rise of the private automobile, unregulated toxic factories, and the widespread use of coal-burning as an energy source have all contributed to environmental degradation across China’s cities. While in the past, these issues were swept under the rug in favor of economic growth at all costs, the rise in living standards means that China’s leadership can no longer ignore the concerns of the people they serve.

China is now at a crucial turning point where economic goals must be balanced with considerations for the environment going forward. This is not an easy problem to tackle and the solution will require a global effort.

The new book The People’s Republic of Chemicals serves as an excellent starting point in understanding how China’s pollution problem got so out of hand in the first place and what can be done to stop it (or at least slow it down). The book’s co-authors, William Kelly and Chip Jacobs, are appropriate storytellers having together written the 2008 book Smogtown about the rise and fall of pollution in mid-century Los Angeles.

William took the time to answer some questions for us about their new book:

View full post »

EndofCopycat China

More can happen in two years in a developing country like China than can happen in a decade or more in developed countries. And given this high speed of change, the information in business books about China’s economy can go out of date really fast.

That is why it is not surprising that although it has only been a little over two years since China analyst Shaun Rein released his first book, The End of Cheap China, he is back with another one. In that time span, China got a new leader in Xi Jinping, the one-child policy was significantly reformed, and Alibaba, the country’s biggest internet company, went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

The End of Copycat China is a natural follow up to End of Cheap China (which we featured a review of on this blog not long ago) and looks to build upon the research he’s been doing for the past decade on the ground in China.

I recently had a chance to chat with Rein about his new book and ask some questions about what he’s seen change in the past two years and, more importantly, the trends he sees influencing China’s development in the near future. View full post »

  • Christian Hermann - maybe China is good in micro innovations, small improvements, modifications and enhancements, but innovation by the original meaning is not yet happening in China. Innovations are big disruptive or impactful new ideas that change systems holistically or introduce something completely new. Everything else is just an improvement for certain needs, or if you want, a micro innovation with a regional purpose.ReplyCancel

  • The End of Copycat China | URBACHINA - […] 5 Questions for Shaun Rein […]ReplyCancel