Reforms needed to fully unlock potential of China's urbanization

By Zhang Liying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 20, 2019
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Reforms are needed in various sectors to unlock the full potential of China's urbanization process in order to boost the country's economic development.This was a message of a preview meeting of the 20th China Development Forum held in Beijing last Saturday.

Li Tie, director of the Center for Reform and Development of Chinese Cities and Small Towns, speaks at a preview meeting of the 20th China Development Forum held in Beijing on Feb. 16, 2019. [Photo courtesy of the China Development Research Foundation]

With the theme of "High-quality Regional Economic Development: From Urbanization to City Clusters," the meeting gathered together five experts and business leaders to discuss how to achieve a higher level of urbanization as a new driving force of the Chinese economy.

China's urbanization rate of permanent residents approached 60 percent last year; however, the rate of officially registered residents was estimated to be around 44 percent. This meant  the dividend to be gained from the urbanization process had yet to be fully unleashed, said Li Tie, director of the Center for Reform and Development of Chinese Cities and Small Towns.

Li said urbanization played an important role in bolstering consumption, investment and employment. He believed China would continue to enjoy the urbanization dividend for between 15 and 20 years, as the urbanization rate of registered residents increased to 70 percent.

Ni Pengfei, director of the City and Competitiveness Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, praised the national strategy of "creating networks of cities and towns based on the city cluster concept, enabling coordinated development of cities of different sizes and small towns." However, problems remain in regard to slow implementation progress and growing disparities between cities within a cluster.

Ni said institutional bottlenecks should be eliminated to change the general mentality of "taking more and giving less" in the coordinated development of different cities.

He recommended the cities within a cluster to reach cooperative agreements identifying the methods for cost allocation, benefit sharing and compensation for any losses emerging from their coordinated development.

New incentive and assessment mechanisms are also needed to encourage relevant local governments to promote the high-quality development of city clusters, Ni added.

Shen Jianguang, vice-president and chief economist of JD Digits, said reforms were needed in land rights, household registration as well as fiscal and taxation systems for the sake of better and healthier urbanization.

He also emphasized the importance of building smart cities, saying governance would become more transparent, effective and capable of outside inspection when data resources were turned into public resources via integrated digital platforms.

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