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Shanghai: distinguished global city in the making

“Building the strength of civic virtues to bring out the best of the city” is the theme of an annual forum focused on the future of the city.

The forum, the second of its kind, was directed by the Publicity Department of the CPC Shanghai Committee, and co-sponsored by the Shanghai Office of the Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee and the Jiefang Daily newspaper. It was held on Tuesday at World Expo Museum.

Over 300 representatives from model units, model families, model communities and neighborhoods, volunteers, schools, universities and the government participated in the conference.

“City is a vital engine for modernization, while civilization is the soul of a modern city,” Dong Yunhu, minister of the Publicity Department of the CPC Shanghai Committee, told the forum.

In his keynote speech, professor Zhu Dajian from Tongji University elaborated on some key issues confronting Shanghai in its bid to become a “distinguished global city.” In discussing what constitutes a global city, Zhu explained, the global consensus has already evolved from an overriding emphasis on economic growth to a holistic measure taking into account the quality of life and environment, as well as economic growth. Of these three factors, quality of life is expected to improve steadily, while economic growth should reach a plateau after a period of high growth, and carbon emissions and consumption of resources should decline.

In reference to these indicators, it can be found that economically Shanghai is already a global leader, though there is the challenge of sustaining its development by innovation, rather than concentration of labor.

On the other hand, there is still much to be done in the endeavor to turn the city into a low-carbon, environment friendly city marked by diversity, tolerance, and heightened sensitivity to human needs.

“That suggests that the slogan about turning Shanghai into an innovative, humanistic, and ecological city is proposed in view of our actual conditions, and this realization is crucial to our conception of ‘distinguished global city’,” Zhu pointed out.

As a result, Shanghai is today in need of not only transcending the stage of industrialization, but also looking beyond the service industry.

In elucidating the global significance of shared bikes, Zhu drew attention to the fact Shanghai is where Mobike started. Its success here suggests the combination of technical innovation and government tolerance.

Zhu admitted that there are some problems regarding shared bikes, but on the other hand no innovation is possible without some toleration of chaos, and this is an important principle for the government to remember in its regulation and governance of the market.

Innovative solution

With a population of 24 million over a building space of 3,200 square kilometers, Shanghai has long exceeded the proper building land area corresponding to its population, which, according to the standards given by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, should have been 2,400 sq km. Thus even if the city succeeds in limiting its population to 25 million by 2040, the city will still be extravagant in its land use if it succeeds in restricting its building land to 3200 sq km.

Solving this takes innovation. For example, the city has been trying to turn some industrial space of concrete and steel into green public space, such as suburban parks.

The effort in turning the long stretches of space by the Huangpu River into leisure space fit for strolling and cycling is also an extension of the practice first applied with the Suzhou Creek.

In his presentation, Zhu showed how an elevated highway jammed with motor vehicles in downtown Seoul had been demolished and in its place is now a beautifully landscaped river frequented by residents.

Zhu criticized the early craze of building a dedicated CBD dominated by soaring office buildings. “These highrises, separated from each other by expansive boulevards and long streams of motor vehicles, look like so many isolated bamboo shoots, and you begin to wonder where do these people live, and where do they get their meals?”

By contrast, in Europe or in the city of Hong Kong, people in highrises can easily satisfy their daily needs by taking short walks along the pedestrian paths linking these buildings. Taking a leaf from their practice, Shanghai is also planning “15-minute neighborhoods” — where the daily needs of residents can be satisfied within 15 minutes’ walk.

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