Living conditions are regarded as an important indicator that will reflect the all-round Xiaokang (well-off) future of Chinese society, according to China Securities. It is predicted that the first decade of the century will witness an increase in living space for urban residents, while the second decade will see an improved quality of life.
The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) put forward a target for China to enter a new phase as well-off society in an all-round way by 2020. In that case, what kind of living conditions will urban residents enjoy in a well-off society?
Hou Jie, a former minister for construction, reiterated a well-known saying that “living conditions hinge on Xiaokang or non-Xiaokang.” This indicates that living conditions play an important part in a well-off society, particularly the amount of living space, considered a key index in assessing wealth.
As early as 1991, the National Bureau of Statistics, together with 12 other ministries and commissions, worked out a living index based on 16 fundamental indictors for a well-off society, including a usable floor space of 12 square meters per capita. This living space index was realized and even surpassed by the end of 2001, with a per capita construction area of about 20 square meters, or 15 square meters of usable floor space. China is expected to reach an even higher level of Xiaokang by 2020.
Economist Li Yining thinks that the concept of Xiaokang has changed greatly, and that economists will find it difficult to supply the term with an absolute definition. For instance, nowadays a household owning a two or three-room flat, a TV set and refrigerator can be considered a well-off family. However, five years from now, a well-off family will be expected to own a private car, and five years after that they will have to be able to afford a second flat. The concept of Xiaokang requiring a second flat, as depicted by some economists, is still a relatively abstract notion, while for real estate professionals it’s becoming a rather concrete term.
Song Chunhua, chairman of the Chinese Architectural Society board and former vice-minister for construction, refers to future urban living conditions as constituting a post-Xiaokang era, characterized by an increase in living space during the first decade and an improved quality of life in the second. The objective is that by 2005 per capita construction area for an average urban family, made up of 3.16 people, will reach 22 square meters with a construction area of 70 square meters for the family. By 2010 these figures will reach 25 square meters and 80 square meters respectively. As the index is realized, the increasing range of new houses is expected to slow, and the housing industry will shift from exponential expansion to accumulated growth.
The housing industry in Germany started to shift from exponential expansion to accumulated growth in 1987. This was marked by the fact that for the first time investments made for the maintenance and renovation of old house exceeded investments for the building of new houses. In other developed countries, the average living space is 100 square meters, never surpassing 110-120 square meters or moving below 80-100 square meters. Thus, it is calculated that an 80 to 100-square-meter house is the most reasonable, economic and suitable size of abode for an average urban family.
Statistics from the World Bank (WB) indicate that when a country’s per capita GDP reaches US$1,500, housing construction will peak accordingly. China’s per capita GDP is calculated to double and reach US$1,500-1,600 by 2010. Housing construction will witness correspondingly rapid development.
What will a Xiaokang residence look like once living space reaches a reasonable level? The Ministry of Construction has made public 10 standards for a Xiaokang-type residence, aimed at “being guided by science and technology and suitably transcending present conditions.” The 10 standards outline the following characteristics:
*A residential flat will be spacious with reasonable accommodations. It will have comparatively large spaces for daily activities, cooking, washing, and storage.
*The layout of the flat will be reasonable and reflect the principles of separating dining and living spaces from sleeping spaces. There will be latitude for further renovations.
*The flat will have excellent lighting and ventilation systems. The standards for sound insulation and illumination will be higher than those for current domestic dwellings.
*The flat will have a complete set of kitchen installations, including improved fume and oil extractors, and a refrigerator.
*The space for washing will be reasonably arranged to avoid interferences created by ablutions, bathing, and washing.
*Pipes will be fixed in an integrated way. Electricity, water and gas meters shall be installed outside the apartment. Relevant measures will be adopted to ensure public security. Special lines for telephones, closed-circuit televisions and air-conditioners will also be available.
*The cloak closet must be convenient for people to change their clothes and shoes. The balcony will be spacious with enough room for outdoor activities. Interim spaces can be used conveniently.
*The environment around the residential area will comfortable, with a reasonable layout convenient for public security, noise control, and traffic. There will be complete sets of community service facilities.
*Garbage will be classified and put into bags. Bicycles can be placed in nearby storehouses. Reserved parking places will be available.
*Trees and other vegetation will be planted to create an environmentally friendly community in an effort to economize on resources.
(China.org.cn translated by Zhang Tingting, December 17, 2002)