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Commentary: Building sustainable cities

By Wei Shen  (China Daily)

13:32, September 28, 2012

More than half of the world's population now live in cities and more than two-thirds will do so by 2030. The massive rural-urban migration has created one metropolis after another, which has had an enormous impact on the global economy and sustainability.

China's rapid urbanization, with a predicted "urban billion" by 2030, is at the heart of the global debate on urbanization. The European Union and China launched their partnership on sustainable urbanization during the China-EU summit in February to explore different ways in which they can join forces to meet one of 21st century's major challenges.

The first EU-China Mayors' Forum, the flagship event of their urbanization partnership, was held in Brussels on Sept 19-20 and concluded with the signing of a charter signaling the next phase of their joint efforts to promote sustainable cities.

The EU-China Sustainable Urbanization Partnership is designed to bring together stakeholders and initiatives from the political arena as well as business and civil society. While European nations and institutions have not directly experienced the scale and speed of the urban transformation that is taking place in China, they have a lot to offer in terms of expertise in urban development.

Over the past three decades, since economic reforms were launched at the end of 1978, China has witnessed unprecedented urbanization as millions of Chinese citizens have moved from the countryside to cities. Just as in other industrialized and developing countries, urbanization in China is an integral part of its rapid economic growth and industrialization.

At the beginning of 2012, for the first time in China's history, urban residents outnumbered those in the countryside. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in January 2012, the number of urban dwellers was 690.8 million, nearly 51.3 percent of China's total population. And although China is still less urbanized than most developed nations, it already has the world's largest urban population.

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