The formation of city clusters will be an integral part of China's future development, according to an influential development strategist.
Most of the megacities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan already home to millions of people still have room to grow.
"Those cities should improve their management capabilities to facilitate the growth," Li Shantong, a research fellow of the State Council Development Research Center, said.
Smaller cities around the megacities especially those with populations of about 1 million should be prepared to become an integral part of the city clusters, Li, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Conference, said.
"It is obvious that China should not pursue urbanization by focusing on building towns and small cities," Li said.
Li has been a key consultant for the nation's decision makers for long-term development and regional development. She was one of the two keynote speakers at a study group session of the country's top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, in February.
There have long been debates among experts and officials about the way forward for China's urbanization.
Some experts have suggested that villages should be "upgraded" into towns and small cities as a priority. But others, including Li, disagree.
City clusters have already formed on the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, with Shanghai and Guangzhou as their respective core.
Other regions that could see the emergence of new clusters include the Beijing-Tianjin area, Southwest China's Chongqing-Chengdu area, the area around Wuhan of Central China's Hubei Province, and the Shenyang-Dalian area in Northeast China's Liaoning Province.
"Developing big cities is a more efficient form of urbanization and it is conducive to sharpen the competitiveness of the regions with cities clusters," she said.
"We should not worry about problems that many believe will certainly come about as cities grow bigger. There will be no problem as along as they are managed well."
Li said managers of cities on the Chinese mainland take Hong Kong as an example of good city management. Population density in Hong Kong is higher than almost all of China's cities. But the city still operates very efficiently, she said.
In addition to a correct approach to urbanization, China is in urgent need to divide its entire territory into "units" and pursue different regional development policies according to the qualities of the units, Li said.
Four different labels should be assigned to different units: regions that should go for accelerated growth; regions that need structural adjustment; regions that allow only limited economic development because they are ecologically fragile; and regions that allow no economic development at all.
She said the work, coordinated by the National Development and Reform Commission, is expected to start later this year.
A final decision has yet to be made about the smallest unit for the division, but it could be a county, she said.
The implementation of development policies based on the divisions are also still under discussion.
"We have to start the work as soon as possible because if we don't, we will witness more activities that hurt the environment," she said.
Source: China Daily