Why do China's cities look a lot more impressive and feel more futuristic compared to U.S cities? Does China just have a greater desire for urban development?
Shaun Lawson, amateur urban studies/planning student
A lot of it is because China's cities are just newer, with virtually no buildings older than 30 years old and most buildings younger than 10 years. If life worked like Sim City and you could just swap out infrastructure of equal historical value, you could freely bulldoze Manhattan in return for several trillion dollars and build a metropolis that makes Blade Runner look like Colonial Williamsburg, and I would move there tomorrow.
Most of Hong Kong was only built in the last 20-30 years at most; the real famous buildings in New York and Chicago were built at the turn of the century, when America was going through basically the same period China is now, and served a very similar role in the world, as the engine of progress and manufacturing.
To do a Sim City makeover of an American city, however, you'd need to use eminent domain in a wildly unconstitutional fashion. The reason that Beijing has been able to bulldoze the entire city like two or three times in the last 60 years and build 20 subway lines covering an area not much smaller than Rhode Island is because people aren't allowed to sue the go nment and have a lot of carrots and sticks to encourage them to take their cash settlements and move somewhere else, no matter how historic their courtyard may be. Compare this to legendary sloth and difficulty of New York subway construction, where zoning ordinance, legal battles, and to a large extent just the relatively much, much higher costs of labor and concrete keeps things very, very slow.
On the other hand, unlike China, we don't have chemical explosions of 300 tons of TNT going off in our harbors any more, and people aren't kicked out of their homes by the thousands and have historic neighborhoods bulldozed (although we did that to a lot of black and immigrant neighborhoods while building rail and highway infrastructure in the last two centuries). Hoorah for American progress.
Also, Americans don't really like paying for infrastructure? Basic crap, like roads, schools, healthcare, modernized power plants. We kick it around in town hall meetings and cry about socialist slippery slopes and tend to constantly kick things back and forth between federal, state, and local go nments, and operate at a much lower efficiency, and try to privatize things that really can't or shouldn't be privatized--prisons, waste reclamation, water. As a nation we just have poor impulse control and a love of instant gratification, as well as cultural pro-business anti-go nment attitudes, and it messes up the (expensive and often controversial) infrastructure you need to maintain any modern state, much less the superpower we are.
Also, this is the building spike in China now. More or less, what is being built now is the architecture that will be considered iconic of China 100 years from now; labor and commodity prices will increase and the money supply will get tighter, and hopefully legal rights will increasingly strengthen, until it becomes much more difficult to just build a city of 20 million people from the ground up.
I'd also like to say that while shameless eminent domain, collaborative utilitarian go nments, and nationwide embrace of infrastructure funding tend to get great results in urbanization, while avoiding the slums prevalent in so many other developing countries, I absolutely hate 90% of Chinese architecture and urban planning. The Forbidden City was built in the Ming Dynasty but it still has perfect drainage; after any heavy rainfall in Beijing almost every sidewalk is covered in toxic puddles for days. Almost every modern skyscraper is a cheap, badly insulated Le Corbusier phallus or else a cookie cutter villa complex, because the ghost of Levittown somehow crossed the Pacific
There are exceptions.
Another point would be that average young Chinese are just more comfortable with the future in general than Americans, since they're not held back by lots of sunk costs and emotional commitment to outdated infrastructure built a hundred years ago. Telephones went straight from landlines being a luxury to universal 3G wireless, from clunky coal-burning trains to selling high speed rail systems back to Germany. Internet penetration is higher and the tech world is generally more competitive, with software like Taobao, Alipay, and WeChat really blowing away western competitors.
CGTN Social Team, works at CGTN
Cities are the nerve centers of the world. An estimated 56 percent of the global population live in urban settlements today, with that number set to grow exponentially in the coming decades.
China, which has added an astounding 650 million people to its cities in the last four decades, is bound to play a key role in global urbanization.
As the United Nations observes World Cities Day (WCD) on October 31, it is worth noting that of the 20 fastest growing cities in the world today, seven are from China – Shanghai, Chongqing, Beijing, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Xi'an.
In fact it was at the Shanghai International Expo 2010 that the idea for an international day to encourage international community's interest in global urbanization was conceived and led to the UN General Assembly passing a resolution in December 2013 to designate October 31 as World Cities Day.
China has been at the center stage of global urbanization in recent decades. In 1978, just a little over 171 million people, or 17.92 percent of the total Chinese population, lived in cities.
By 2017, the number of China's urban dwellers soared to about 813 million or 58.52 percent of the country's population, surpassing the global urbanization average of 54.74 percent.
By 2030, urban population will account for 60 percent of the global population and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants, according to United Nations' data on world's cities.
In comparison, China's urbanization rate will reach 70 percent by 2035 with over 1 billion Chinese citizens living and working in cities with a combined area of 100,000 square kilometers, according to a report published by the National Academy of Economic Strategy (NAES) under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The pace and scale of urbanization has had a profound impact not only on China's political, environmental, and economic conditions but has created ripples across the world in profound ways, influencing everything from global climate prospects to socioeconomic conditions, and indeed the world economy.
Urbanization has been an important catalyst in pulling more than 700 million people out of poverty, many of whom participated in China's massive rural-urban migration, moving from the countryside to the cities and from agriculture into jobs in industry and services.
China's cities have largely avoided the social ills of rapid urbanization such as widespread urban unemployment and poverty. This has been achieved partly by regulating the flow of people to its cities, but more so by creating the conditions for rapid growth in income and employment.
The continued urbanization is bound to cause a surge in China's consuming capacity in the coming decades as it transforms into a high-income country. China's mega cities now have income levels comparable to some member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Brookings Institute's Global Metro Monitor in 2018 reported that 103 of the world's 300 largest metropolitan economies are now in China.
布鲁金斯学会(Brookings Institute) 2018年发布的《全球地铁观察》(Global Metro Monitor)报告称，全球300个最大的大都市经济体中，目前有103个在中国。
译文来源：三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/49460.html 译者：Joyceliu
Robert Narracci, Architecture
1) Newness : a very large percentage of Chinese development is recent compared with US development and is by nature newer looking.
2) Boom time : the recent decades of economic exuberance has led to forward thinking experimentation in architecture.
3) Economics : very cheap labor costs have made it 10x more economical to build in China than in the US and some of that savings has been thrown into a prideful bravado of architectural expression.
4) Talent Attraction : western architects frustrated by western malaise, conservatism, and (frugality) have opened up shops in China to participate in the exuberance.
PS That all being said, beyond the notable downtowns there are many pitifully poorly designed buildings in China. Just as in the US, the flashier stuff gets your attention but is a small percentage of the whole
Michael Cheng, Lived in the San Jose Bay Area for 32 years and lived in LA and East Coast
That's one personal opinion. I don't happen to share the same opinion. If anything, I think Vancouver looks way more modern, if not futuristic, at night with its lean and clean lines.
Shanghai and Beijing are both rapidly developing cities. Almost all the towers are under 20 years old. I don't particularly like the mishmash of architectural styles designed to attract attention.
LA is a suburban sprawl that really can't be compared to any tier one city. New York City is just dated, with only a few newer projects to light the way
Lauren Anderson, I love this country.
City design is based on city planning & zoning. I've never been to China, but, in the U.S., property ownership rights are a big deal for individual citizens. And, to tell a person what to build & how to build on their own land is a big deal which involves various constitutional rights. If cities in China are able to build/develop in a more aesthetically pleasing way, on a grander scale, the go nment might have more power and rights over the land, as a whole, rather than multiple individuals. For example, if the go nment (one entity) owns/controls 500 sq. km., rather than 500 individuals (like in the U.S.), the go nment can make a more cohesive design, because there is only one entity making decisions, rather than 500.
John Mahan, studied BA Business Marketing at The University of Texas at Austin
To put it simply...
China (and some other countries) has very new modern infrastructure compared to the U.S.
The chinese go nment not only encouraged impressive looking buildings but also built some themselves. Anyone who watched the Beijing Olympics could see that China was desperately trying to impress the world...and in many ways they did
Yu-Hsing Chen, lived in The United States of America
As most others noted, it's more than anything else because it's newer, that and they have too much hot money to throw around. it's certainly been a dream ground for architects around the world in the last decade +（图）