Remarks of Amb. WU on Greening China's Cities of Tomorrow - 中欧社会论坛 - China Europa Forum

Remarks of Amb. WU on Greening China’s Cities of Tomorrow

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I wish to thank Friends of Europe for organizing this meeting and for inviting me.

Spring is always regarded as the best season to plan for the year ahead. So I find today’s meeting particularly fitting to discuss the China-EU urbanization partnership, an initiative announced during the 14th China-EU Summit in Beijing last month. I was fortunate to have attended the summit as the new Chinese Ambassador to the EU.

Partnership, cooperation, and confidence have been the key words of this summit. The meeting is highly successful in strengthening strategic trust, growing practical cooperation, and promoting sustainable development. Urbanization partnership is a major achievement of the summit. The two sides will work together in this area through exchanges and cooperation so as to add a new dimension to our comprehensive strategic partnership. I therefore do hope that our discussions today would produce valuable ideas and perspectives on the ways to achieve the proposed goal.

For more than three decades, urbanization has been an integral part to China’s pursuit of reform and opening up. The lengths we’ve covered are quite encouraging.

China has maintained impressive momentum for urbanization. Last year, the nation’s urbanization rate has increased to 51.3% from the 17.9% of 1978. At 690 million, the urbanization population has, for the first time, surpassed the rural population. Of all 655 Chinese cities, 122 have population of over a million, and 13 have of over 4 million. One report from the United Nations suggests that a quarter of the cities with population of above 500,000 across the world are now in China.

Urbanization has changed the Chinese economy. As China urbanizes, investment and demand also increase in tandem, providing a strong force for sustainable development. Over the past years, not only have we seen the fast growth of the manufacturing sector, but also of the tertiary industry, especially the service industry. Education, real-estate, tourism, energy, and environment sectors have all benefited immensely from urbanization.

Urbanization has also changed Chinese people’s live. With more people moving into cities, the average personal income has also risen markedly to 21,800 RMB Yuan, equivalent to around 3,400 US dollars, in 2011. In 1978, the number was only 343 Yuan, less than 2% of the current level. Along such progress is the rapid development of infrastructures and constant upgrades in urban planning, bringing fundamental changes to people’s everyday life.

Two years ago, when Shanghai hosted the World Expo, we proposed the theme for the event as "Better City, Better Life". I was very fortunate to be assigned to prepare for the event, and have since talked to many people about their impression of Chinese cities. Many of them are fond of the Chinese history, culture, and traditions, and many more are marveled by the burgeoning skylines and sophisticated transportation networks of our cities. But we in China have never taken light of the challenges we need to face. Even today, China remains an under-urbanized country. The increasing population and its over-concentration are pushing our cities beyond their limits in terms of resource consumption and environment degradation. In many places, traffic and pollution is now the unavoidable routine. "Better City, Better Life" has become more than just a slogan, but an urgent calling for credible actions. The Chinese public is serious about this task, and so is the Chinese government.

In the 12th Five Year Plan, sustainable urbanization was accorded with strong emphasis as a key aspect for the strategic adjustment of the Chinese economic structure. The goal is to raise the urbanization rate another 4% and to achieve quality urban living. Efforts will be made mainly in four aspects.

First, we will develop a strategic layout for urbanization. Efforts will be focused on the development of small and median sized cities surrounding large cities so as to benefit from the exiting urbanized areas. The idea is to use the radiating effect to, step by step, establish urban agglomerations with more appropriate definition of city functions and distribution of industries.

The second aspect is to continue to promote migration from rural to urban areas, and to make sure that education, vocational training, pension, and medical care will follow up to meet the demand.

Third, we will work to upgrade the capacity of our cities to accommodate a larger population. This will include the development of infrastructures for transportation, communication, waste disposal, and the supply of water, power, and gas. There will also be more investment to build public parks and facilities for arts and sports.

Fourth, we will try to improve the quality of city management by making the process more detailed, standardized, and by promoting information development, digital city and other initiatives.

Europe has already been on the path of urbanization for more than a century. Of all this time, countries here have accumulated valuable experience in renovating the old towns, developing the new ones, and protecting the historical sites as well as the environment. Cities of different sizes are well-placed and managed to complement each other. These strengths give us plenty of reasons to strengthen exchange. Together, we could find new solutions to our problems and create new opportunities for cooperation presented by the growing consumption and investment demand. The service industry harbors the largest potential. I have no doubt that by working together, we could establish a more refined urban culture, bring about a more pleasant urban experience, and enable our two peoples to live the real benefit of China-EU practical cooperation.

Apart from offering opportunities for exchange in urban development and management, China’s urbanization also creates promising business opportunities for European companies. We pursue mutually-beneficial cooperation and win-win progress. We are always open and inclusive in welcoming competitive European partners to get more involved in our urbanization process and to have a share in China’s progress. I have full confidence that the urbanization partnership between China and Europe will yield more fruitful results in promoting our respective economic and social development, and will contribute to new breakthroughs in China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

To conclude, I wish this meeting a full success.

Thank you!

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