11.S945 Urbanizing China: A Reflective Dialogue

Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, Fall 2013

List of Dialogues

Part I: Preface (3 classes)

W9/4 Multiple Interpretations: Urbanization out of Sync (Jinhua Zhao)

M9/9 Is China an Outlier? China’s Urbanization in the Historical and International Contexts (Liyan Xu)

W9/11 Fundamentals: Hukou and Migration (Jinhua Zhao)

Part II: Land Market, Public Finance, Real Estate Development (6 classes)

M9/16 China’s Land use and Public Finance Institutions (Liyan Xu)

W9/18 Land Quota Market in Chongqing and Chengdu: De-spatialize Land Transfer (Yuan Xiao)

M9/23 Brownfields in Beijing Chemical Plant: How Cities Recycle Industrial Land (Xin Li)

W9/25 Integrating the Proposed Property Tax with the Public Leasehold System (Yu-Hung Hong)

M9/30 and W10/02 Module Summary and Student Presentations Phase 1: Ideas

Part III: Transportation, Economy, Energy, Environment & Technology (10 classes)

M10/07 Dispersion of Urban Agglomeration through High Speed Rail (Wanli Fang)

W10/09 Managing Car Ownership in Mega Cities (Jinhua Zhao)

W10/16 Costs of Air Pollution: Focusing on its Human Health Damage (Kyung-Min)

M10/21 Advancing Low-Carbon Cities: Pathways through CERC (Shin-Pei Tsay)

W10/23 Module Summary and Student Presentations Phase 2: Proposals

M10/28 Progress in Energy Efficiency: Technology, Policy and Market (Yang Yu)

W10/30 Financing Urban Access: Transportation, Form and Land Grabbing (David Block-Schatcher)

M11/04 Untangling Complex Urban Issues through Emerging Big Data (Shan Jiang and Yi Zhu)

W11/06 and W11/13 Module Summary and Student Presentations Phase 3: Literature

Part IV: Social, Cultural and Political (8 classes)

M11/18 Drifting and getting stuck: Migrants in Chinese cities (Weiping Wu)

W11/20 Urbanization vs. Citizenization: Self-employed Migrants in Wangjingxi Market (Yulin Chen)

M11/25 Spatial Justice in Affordable Housing Design in Ningbo (Yi Dong)

W11/27 Preserving Beijing’s Spatial Tradition in Rapid Urban Development (Hui Wang)

M12/02 Aging Society: Offering Care to the Elderly in the Confucius Society (Joan Retsinas)

W12/04 Forging Greater Xi’an: New Regional Strategies and their Urban Outcomes (Kyle Jaros)

M12/09 Social Housing in China-- Explorations, Practices, and Dilemmas (Yifan Yu)

W12/11 Alternative Narratives of China’s Urbanzation

Dialogue Descriptions

1.        Multiple Interpretations: Urbanization Out of Sync

Jinhua Zhao, MIT

Abstract: China urbanized 350 million people in the past 30 years and is poised to do it again in the next three decades. China’s urbanization is immense and rapid but largely “out of sync”. This talk will present seven different interpretations of China's urbanization, and reckon that China is progressing at significantly different paces along these dimensions. It is the dis-synchronization that results tensions and discontinuities between people and land, between economy and environment, between urban financing and urban form, and between locals and migrants.


l   China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million Into Cities and Pitfalls Abound in China’s Push From Farm to City New York Times 06/2013, 07/2013

l   Introduction: Becoming Urban in China, John Friedmann (2006) China's Urban Transition

l   Introduction, Weiping Wu and Piper Gaubatz (2013) The Chinese Cities


2.        Is China an Outlier? China's Urbanization in the Historical and International Contexts

Liyan Xu, MIT

Abstract: China has been experiencing an urbanization process that is unprecedented in terms of speed, scale, and scope. This session begins with a review of fundamental urbanization theories, followed by a presentation showing the basic facts of China’s urbanization in the past sixty years, especially in the recent three decades. Putting China in the historical and international contexts, the analysis will go on to evaluate China’s urban transition from the perspectives of population, land use, and economic performance. The session concludes with a remark of the uniqueness of China’s urbanization, and asks questions on the future of urbanization that serve as food for thoughts for the remaining sessions.

Bio: Liyan Xu is a third-year doctoral student at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research interests include urbanization and regional development in China, and the related land use and public finance issues. Before coming to MIT, Liyan had worked as a planner and project manager in Beijing, with experiences of 20+ projects on regional, urban, and land use planning. Liyan graduated from the Yuanpei Pilot Program in Science in Peking University and was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, and then obtained his Master Degree in Economic Geography from the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences in Peking University.


l   Required: Chen, M., Liu, W., & Tao, X. (2013). Evolution and assessment on China’s urbanization 1960–2010: Under-urbanization or over-urbanization? Habitat International, 38(0)

l   Suggested: Trends in Urbanization and Urban Policies in OECD Countries: What Lessons for China? OECE and China Development Research Foundation (2010)

3.        Fundamentals: Hukou and Migration

Jinhua Zhao, MIT

Abstract: Notwithstanding China's long urban history, the country remained largely an agrarian society until very recently. But urban superiority has taken hold since the turn of the twentieth century. Despite efforts to reduce the distinction between city and countryside after the Communist Party took power in 1949, an urban– rural divide forms the basis of the broadest kind of social inequality. Rural areas continue to have the poorest of the poor and lag behind in health status, nutrition, education, life expectancy, and overall living standards. Under market transition and globalizing forces, however, population mobility has grown drastically. Close to 200 million migrants have left the Chinese countryside for cities since 1983. This recent migratory flow is perhaps the largest tide of migration in human history. It has become a prominent feature of China's economic transition and is changing the face of the country (Fan 2008). This chapter outlines how the persistent urban– rural divide has formed historically and then has been reinforced by a set of socialist institutions. Particularly critical is the household registration system (hukou). The chapter also shows how a confluence of rising agricultural productivity and globalizing forces in urban manufactures opened the flood gate of migration in the early 1980s. Since then, migrant workers and entrepreneurs have provided substantial human impetus for the rapid modernization of cities. But most of them continue to face barriers to settle there permanently and exhibit a temporary or circular pattern of mobility.


Š      Chapter 5, Urban-rural divide, socialist institutions, and migration, Wu and  Gaubatz (2013) The Chinese City

Š      Kam Wing Chan (2013) Urbanization and the Chinese Dream Caixin Online

4.        Land Use and Public Finance Institutions in China: an Overview

Liyan Xu, MIT

Abstract: This session introduces China’s basic land use and public finance institutions, which serves as basic knowledge background for the remaining sessions. Details include: the Constitutional and other legal basis of China’s land use system; the urban/rural dichotomy of land property rights; the current bid invitation, auction and listing system in urban land transfer; China’s public finance framework after the 1994 financial reform; the “land finance system” and its variations; and the Shenzhen and Chongqing cases of local land use and public finance reform.


Š      Introduction of China’s Local Public Finance in Transition, Man and Hong ed., (2011) The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Š      On the optimal city size. K.J. Button. The Theory of City Size and Spacing. Urban Economics. 1976. MacMillan. Bristol. Ch6

Š      John R. Harris and Michael P. Todaro. 1970. "Migration, Unemployment, and Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, 60 (1) (March): 126 142

5.        Land Quota Market in Chongqing and Chengdu: De-spatialization of Land Transfer

Yuan Xiao, MIT

Abstract: China's meteoric economic growth has been taking place with a set of property rights institutions that distinguish and disconnect urban and rural worlds. Local governments acquire land cheaply from peasants and leverage it to attract businesses and investment.  This “land grab” has been an important source of revenues for local governments since the late 1990s.   However, it has become increasingly unsustainable because of the huge inequality, intense social conflicts, and economic inefficiency it has created. The central government of China has issued strict policy measures to curb land conversion by local governments. In response, a new institution has emerged—the land quota market. These markets are developed by local governments to trade "land development quotas," in contrast to markets that trade actual land parcels. Quotas are created by tearing down low-density farmhouses, and packing peasants into high-rise apartments. The development rights of the old parcels are then sold in a market. This new quota market has changed the calculus of land values: instead of location advantage, land value is now more dependent on the spatial density of existing farmhouses so that even land in the hinterlands is affected by urbanization. My dissertation asks how this mode of land commodification is different from the previous mode from spatial and political economy perspectives, and why it works to solve the dilemma of development versus social equality faced by local governments. This research takes the approach of  comparative case studies, backed by qualitative and quantitative data collected from 6 Chinese cites.

Bio: Yuan Xiao is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research interests include property rights theories and practices, urbanization, land markets as well as urban and regional economics. Yuan Xiao's dissertation studies the latest land policy innovation in China, the land quota markets which have de-spatialized land transfers and have important social and economic implications for Chinese urbanization. Prior to coming to MIT, she worked for three years with the World Bank Institute in Washington D.C., focusing on capacity building and training programs in the field of urban management and planning for developing countries. Yuan obtained her master's degree in Political Science from University of Toronto, Canada. She was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in International Politics and a concurrent Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Peking (Beijing) University, China.


Š      Hsing, You-tien. 2010. The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Chapters 4 and 7)

6.        Brownfields in Beijing Chemical Plant: How Cities Recycle Industrial Land

Xin Li, Columbia University

Abstract: Following stories of a land redevelopment project over an eight-year period, I demonstrate a shift in China's environmental governance from a top-down command-and-control regulatory regime to a multilevel system that facilitates consensus building and public participation in environmental policymaking. In addition, I argue that the shift with respect to brownfields occurred not simply because of improvements within the environmental apparatus, but because of recent land market reforms. 

Bio: Xin Li is a visiting assistant professor in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. Her research explores crucial issues linking economic development, environmental protection, and technological innovation in different institutional settings. Through comparative approach, Li is particularly interested in economic restructuring in rapidly deindustrializing regions, environmental and social problems accompanying fast urbanization, and land conflicts arising from rampant urban expansion. Her current work primarily focuses on China, where she examines how brownfield issues in Chinese cities were and currently are managed during industrial sites’ redevelopment process. She investigates these issues by analyzing the progress of brownfield legislation, property rights of former industrial land, environmental governance related to land contamination, brownfield financing mechanisms, and power balances among stakeholders. Dr. Li has a PhD degree in Urban and Regional Studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; and a B.A. in Economics from Renmin University of China.


Š      Li 2013, Environmental Governance of Brownfields in Deindustrializing Regions: Implications of a Land-Redevelopment Case in China, Working paper

Š      Jenkin et al 2009 Policy Monitor—The Evolution of Solid and Hazardous Waste Regulation in the United States, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, volume 3, issue 1, pp. 104–120

7.        Integrating the Proposed Property Tax with the Public Leasehold System

Yu-Hung Hong, Land Governance Laboratory

Abstract: The Chinese government has been experimenting with the idea of taxing both land and buildings to raise public funds for financing local expenditures.  The primary goal is to lower the heavy reliance of municipalities on land leasing revenues that has created both fiscal and spatial concerns in China.  The talk will explore why the proposed property tax reform may be able to alleviate these concerns and how political and institutional constraints such as property relations and government transparency might have blocked the reform.  The presenter will also propose some conceptual ideas to soften these institutional constraints.

Bio: Yu-Hung Hong is the founder and Executive Director of Land Governance Laboratory where he studies the use of land tools to facilitate open and inclusive decision making processes for land resource allocation in developing countries. He is also a Lecturer of Urban Planning and Finance at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Visiting Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. He earned his Ph.D. in Urban Development and Masters in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. His research focuses on property rights and obligations, land readjustment/sharing, and local public finance. Specifically, he is interested in investigating how governments can capture land value increments created by public investment and community collaboration for financing local infrastructure and durable shelters for the poor.


Hong and Brubaker (2010) Integrating the Proposed Property Tax with the Public Leasehold System, Chapter 9, China’s Local Public Finance in Transition, Edited by Man and Hong.

8.        Dispersion of Agglomeration through High-speed Rail

Wanli Fang, MIT

Abstract: This research estimates transport infrastructure’s influence on the productivity, scale and distribution of urban economic activities through changing intercity accessibility, using China’s high-speed rail (HSR) as a specific case. The GIS-based spatial analyses of the network accessibility measured by three alternative indicators consistently illustrate that, the extensive transport investments during 2001-2010 have reduced the disparities in accessibility among cities in China, with the coefficient of variation dropping by nearly 50%. Differently, estimations from the panel data models shed light on the complexity in the relationship between accessibility and economic activities, which consists of both generative and redistributive components and simultaneously leads to convergent and divergent economic outcomes among regions and across cities of different sizes. Yet, empirical evidence denies the saturation effects of accessibility. Extended estimations using different instrument variables (IV) partially relieve the concerns on endogeneity issues. The findings lead to important policy implications for decision-makers. First, China has not exhausted the agglomeration benefits dispersing through transport infrastructure given the remarkable regional disparities. Second, for the appraisal of major transport projects including HSR, it is reasonable to extend the standard cost-benefit analysis to include the generative benefits; to evaluate the impacts on regional disparities based on redistributive effects; and to avoid overbuilding through identification of saturation effects.

Bio: Wanli Fang holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from MIT. She studies international development issues from the perspectives of urban and regional economics and public finance. Her dissertation systematically assessed the impacts of transport infrastructure investments on the efficiency, scale and distribution of urban economic activities, using China’s high-speed rail as a specific case. Since 2010, she has served as a consultant for the World Bank on a variety of financial aid and technical assistance projects on urbanization, transport investments, economic development and municipal finance. She will be a co-instructor of introductory economics and regional economic modeling classes at DUSP, MIT starting September 2013.

Required reading:

Š      Banister, D. (2007). Quantification of the Non-Transport Benefits Resulting from Rail Investment. TSU Working Paper Series. Oxford

Further readings:

Š      Evers, G. H. M., P. H. Meer, et al. (1987). "Regional impacts of new transport infrastructure: a multisectoral potentials approach." Transportation 14(2)

Š      Givoni, M. (2006). "Development and Impact of the Modern High-speed Train: A Review." Transport Reviews: A Transnational Transdisciplinary Journal 26(5)

Š      Lakshmanan, T.R.(2011). “The broader economic consequences of transport infrastructure investments”, Journal of Transport Geography 19(1)

9.        Managing Car Ownership in Chinese Mega Cities

Jinhua Zhao, MIT

Abstract: The astronomical growth in private cars in China, which surpassed the US to become the largest automobile market in 2009, has led to very visible environmental crises and congestion. But the nationwide increase conceals crucial policy differences between cities that influence effectiveness, revenue, efficiency, equity and public acceptance.  While Shanghai and Beijing each had about 2 million motor vehicles in 2004, by 2010 Beijing has 4.8 million whereas Shanghai has only 3.1 million. Beijing’s growth rate was 15% annually, twice that of Shanghai. Extraordinary growth calls for extraordinary measures. Chinese cities offer many such examples in managing their automobiles: from restricting half of Beijing’s vehicles from being used during the Olympics to charging over USD10,000 to register a Shanghai car license through bidding. Boldness in both infrastructure development and policy design seems commonplace in China’s urban transportation arena. This talk, however, will present some of the subtleties in these bold designs using Shanghai license auction policy and Beijing’s license lottery policy as a case. Subtleties exist in public attitude towards government policies, in policy details including pricing mechanism and purposeful policy leakage, and in the contrasting equity and efficiency orientations (superficial fairness in Beijing’ lottery vs. efficiency-orientation of Shanghai’s auction). Governments, at least in some cities, are more skillful in synergizing planning and market mechanisms and they do gauge the public and become more amenable though still sensitive. Policymaking and public response are increasingly two-way interactive.


Zhao, J., T. Chen and D. Block-Schachter (2013) Superficial Fairness of Beijing's Vehicle License Lottery Policy


10.     Costs of air pollution in China: focusing on its human health damage

Kyung-Min Nam, MIT

Abstract: One of the consequences of China’s rapid economic growth is increased urban air pollution, which is strongly associated with rising fossil energy use. Costs of air pollution in China are estimated to be substantial. For example, the World Bank estimated that in 2003 excess particulate matter concentrations alone caused an economic cost of US$55 billion (or around 4% of China’s gross domestic product) to China’s economy. Accordingly, China's government has recognized urban air pollution as a serious constraint in its pursuit of sustainable development, gradually strengthening air quality regulations. In light of increasing attention to the topic, my presentation aims to provide a review of urban air pollution issues in China, together with a brief introduction to methodological progress in the field. 

Bio: Kyung-Min Nam holds a Ph.D. in international development and regional planning from MIT, and is currently a postdoctoral associate in the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.  Dr. Nam’s interests are in the institutional and policy dimensions of economic and environmental sustainability, and his current research focuses on the analysis of synergistic effects of air pollution control and climate policy and the development of an urban growth model based on new economic geography theories. His recent publications include “Out of Passivity: Potential Role of OFDI in IFDI-based Learning Trajectory (2013, Industrial and Corporate Change),” “City-Size Distribution as a Function of Socioeconomic Conditions: An Eclectic Approach to Downscaling Global Population (2013, Urban Studies)”, and “Health Damage from Air Pollution in China (2012, Global Environmental Change).”


Š      Required: Matus, K., Nam, K.-M., Selin, N.E., Lamsal, L.N., Reilly, J.M., Paltsev, S. (2012) Health Damages from Air Pollution in China. Global Environmental Change 22(1)

Š      Suggested: Silver Lining in China’s Smog as It Puts Focus on Emissions, New York Times, 2013


11.     Advancing Low-Carbon Cities: Pathways through CERC (U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center)

Shin-pei Tsay, TransitCenter and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace;

Bio: Shin-pei’s experience in policy and practice converges on transforming the built environment so that it is more accessible, equitable, and sustainable. She has held leadership positions in private and non-profit research, advocacy, urban design, community development, and technology organizations, including Project for Public Spaces, ZGF Architects, and Transportation Alternatives, and was most recently the director of cities and transportation in the energy and climate program for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is also a co-founder and director of Planning Corps, an organization that matches urban planners with community-based projects. Shin-pei serves on the boards of Transportation Alternatives and of the Brooklyn Public Library, is published extensively, and frequently collaborates on creative projects for the public good. Shin-pei holds a bachelor of arts in government with distinction from the College of Arts and Science at Cornell University and a master of science in cities, space, and society from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Reading: A New Focus for U.S.-China Cooperation: Low-Carbon Cities

12.     Progress in Energy Efficiency: Technology, Policy and Market in China’s Automobile Sectors

Yang Yu, Stanford University

Abstract: The recent growth of China's automobile industry has been tremendous. From 2005 to 2011, the sales number of passenger vehicle increased over 300%. However, in the same period, the motor gasoline consumption only increased about 55%. Possible explanations for the differences between these two numbers include the car models in China’s market become more energy efficiency and consumers’ preference switch towards more energy efficiency cars. In this presentation, I will introduce our work about teasing out the technological progress of energy efficiency in the China’s automobile sector and the innovation of Chinese consumers’ preference about cars. Also, I will summarize the policies related with fuel efficiency in China during last decades and discuss the relation between policymaking and the development of the market.  Our main conclusion includes:

Š      Before 2007, average fuel efficiency in China was degrading; after 2007, we see improvement in fuel efficiency.

Š      Until 2007, technological change pattern varied across different sources; From 2008, technologies from all sources have similar trend.

Š      Chinese domestic technologies and foreign technologies differed in their fuel efficiency trends. Aggregately, nearly all foreign technologies were a slight but statistically significant better than Chinese domestic technology. However no foreign technologies improved faster than domestic technology.

Bio: Yang Yu is a Ph.D. Candidate in Stanford and his current research include the energy consumption in transportation sector in China, electricity market reform in transit countries and the integration of renewable energy into power grid.


Š      Fuel Consumption and Technological Progress in Chinese Automobile Sector, Yang Shu, Yang Yu, Yueming Lucy Qiu, working paper.

13.     Financing Urban Access: Transportation, Urban Form and Land Grabbing

David Block-Schachter, MIT

Abstract: The need to finance urban access to meet the mobility needs of the developed and developing world in a sustainable fashion is undeniable. But that collection in turn is sure to impact travel and location behavior. Financing is pricing, and pricing influences behavior. This work focuses on the impacts of the financing collection mechanism on accessibility as a means to bridge the gap between land-based financing and mobility-based financing. After examining the theoretical effects of pricing on accessibility, we focus on two Chinese cases. The first case emphasizes the emerging diversity of vehicle ownership policies in Chinese cities that indirectly influence location choice and urban form via car ownership and travel behavior, and is based on first-hand data and empirical behavior. The second case focuses on land sales that have a direct influence from finance to urban form in terms of the pace and location of the development, and speculates on the influence on accessibility. Of importance is the data we bring to bear to examine the impacts of these policies on the distribution of accessibility between migrants and residents, rich and poor, and car owners and non-car owners. China’s extraordinary growth provides an ample canvas upon which to study the effect of financial mechanisms on accessibility.

Bio: Dr. Block-Schachter is a Research Associate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT focused on transportation policy, planning, and operations. He holds Master of Science, Master of City Planning, Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia University.


Š      Zhao, J., D. Block-Schachter and D. Wang (2013) Behavioral Impact of the Financing Collection Mechanism on Accessibility: Two Cases from Chinese Cities


14.     Understanding and untangling complex urban issues in Chinese cities through emerging big data

Shan Jiang and Yi Zhu, MIT

Abstract: As the proliferation of urban sensing, social media and location-based
devices in Chinese cities generate roaring streams of spatio-temporal registered
information and attitudinal data, time has come to discover how these big datasets can enrich our understanding of complex urban issues, as well as the interactions among policy makers and citizens. In this talk, we will touch on the current states of urban sensing technologies, crowd-sourcing and crowd-sensing applications, and social media applications. Through the examples including bicycle-sharing program, weibo usage, air-quality applications and taxi records, we are intended to stimulate the discussions on the causalities behind the data, and the effects of the emerging information and social network on the decision making and planning processes in Chinese cities.

Bio: Yi Zhu is currently a PhD Candidate of Urban Studies and Planning at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His primary research interests are in urban transportation planning, Geographical Information System (GIS), urban growth modeling and scientific visualization of big data. Yi was born in China, where he received his Bachelor degree in Transportation Engineering in 2002. Afterwards, he got dual degrees in urban planning and civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has been working in the Strategic Options for Transportation and Urban Revitalization (SOTUR) project within the MIT-Portugal Program (MPP) and the Future Urban Mobility (FM) project within the SMART program during his study at MIT.

Bio: Shan Jiang is a PhD candidate in the Urban Information Systems (UIS) Group at DUSP. Her research interests lie in the fields of urban spatial analytics, geographic information systems (GIS), and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in urban planning and transportation planning (e.g., land use and transportation, human mobility and travel behavior, public transport, and sustainable development). Her research asks the questions (1) how can planners use ICT to understand the spatial distributions of economic activities and patterns of human activities and mobility, and their interrelationship at the micro- and macro-level; and (2) what can be done by the public sectors to promote sustainable development by regulating, influencing, and altering behavior of different agents in both short- and long- terms. She leads the student interest group-- China Urban Development at MIT, and has organized with fellow students in the group many public lectures on key issues of urban development in China over the past two years.


15.     Drifting and getting stuck: Migrants in Chinese cities

Weiping Wu, Tufts University

Abstract: Residential mobility patterns are an important indicator of the future socioeconomic standing of rural–urban migrants in the urban society. In Chinese cities there are significant barriers for migrants to settle permanently. Given this context and housing choices available to migrants, what types of housing career do they follow once in the city? Drawing from survey data from three large cities, this paper studies migrant intra-urban residential mobility through three lenses—temporal patterns, spatial trajectories and tenure shifts. The majority of migrants are renters and remain so despite a lengthy residence in the cities. They experience a high level of mobility over time, but the trajectories of their moves are spatially confined and involve few tenure shifts.

            Bio: Weiping Wu, a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Policy Development from Rutgers University, and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Tsinghua University (China). She is a former editor of the Journal of Planning Education and Research, and a visiting Zijiang Chair Professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai. At Tufts, she also is a senior fellow in the Center for Emerging Market Enterprises at The Fletcher School, and the coordinator of the undergraduate Minor in Urban Studies program. Previously, she was a professor of urban studies and planning and international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, a consultant to the World Bank, and a fellow in the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on United States-China Relations. She also serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Urban Affairs, Open Urban Studies Journal, Journal of Urban and Regional Planning (Chinese), and World Regional Studies (Chinese).

Her research is concerned with how migration affects the socio-spatial reconfiguration of cities, how planning and policy influence cities’ economic vitality and infrastructure building, and how higher education transfers knowledge and innovation to industry. With a record of substantial scholarly and publication activities (in books, articles, chapters, and policy and consultant reports), she contributes to a better understanding of urban dynamics in developing countries, and China in particular. Methodologically, she combines large-scale surveys, in-depth interviews, and statistical and spatial analysis. The National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and World Bank have provided funding support for her research. She has (co)authored and co-edited six books, the most recent published by Routledge titled The Chinese City.


“Drifting and Getting Stuck: Migrants in Chinese Cities.” City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action 14, 1 (February 2010): 10-20


16.     Urbanization vs. Citizenization: Self-employed Migrants in Wangjingxi Market in Beijing

Yulin Chen, Tsinghua University

Abstract: Over the last decade, each year there were 10 million Chinese people moving from countryside to city. Thanks to the Hukou system, a large portion of this population is temporary rural-urban migrants, also called as rural migrant workers. In this speech, I will first give a review of the Hukou system and its profound implications in China. Then I will discuss the characteristics of migrant settlements in China as well as some unique features of China’s urbanization patterns compared with western countries. Third, I will introduce my ongoing study on a group of self-employed migrants working in a vegetable market in Beijing. The market has recently been torn down to give space for a modern housing development project. The study focuses on the impact of this event on various aspects of the lifestyle changes and challenges to those self-employed migrants (e.g., working, living, income, family, etc.), so as to reveal the micro-level mechanism of the spatial “urbanization” affecting the “citizenization” of migrants in China. Based on this analysis, I will close my speech by making suggestions to the government for managing urbanization with a better approach.

Bio: CHEN Yulin is an assistant researcher at Department of Urban Planning in Tsinghua University. With the background of urban planning and sociology, Yulin studies China’s urbanization from the view of citizenization and its urban spatial response. Yulin has organized nationwide investigations on migrants in China, and has been the sub-task leader in “Research on the Population Migration and Citizenization” and “Study of Multi-Urbanization Development Strategy in China”.


Š      Eckstein, Susan 1990, Urbanization Revisited: Inner-city Slum of Hope and Squatter Settlement of Despair [J]. World Development 18 (2)

17.     Spatial Justice in Affordable Housing Design in Ningbo

Yi Dong, Partner, DC Alliance; Lecturer, Tongji University

Abstract: This talk will be based on the selected works of affordable housing design practice of DC-Alliance in Ningbo, including the resettlement of farmers and the social security housing for talents. It will focus on the idea of “spatial justice”, which projects the “social justice” concept onto space. These projects will demonstrate what architects can do within the limits of their competence and ability for the affordable housing development in the course of China’s rapid urbanization, and how to balance the relationship between space resource, aesthetic conception and life style in a "fair" way. The talk will discuss how public housing projects feed back to the city from the aspects of space and function. It will conclude with Dr. Dong’s reflection on the strategy of development and public policy support for these projects, which indicates the attitude from the governments.

Bio: Dr. Yi Dong is a Lecturer in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University, where he received his Ph.D in 2011. He practices as the Partner of DC Alliance, an architecture firm based in Shanghai. Focused on affordable housing in China, Dr. Dong leads his design team in several award-winning projects in Ningbo, Zhejiang, including Ningbo Eastern New City Economical Housing project, which was selected for the best residential project in the “Good Design is Good Business” award in the Business Week/Architectural Record China Award 2008; and the Ningbo Yinzhou Talent Apartments project, which won the special award for residential buildings of the Third China Architecture Media Awards in 2012 and reported in Architectural Record in 2013/03.


Š      Ningbo Eastern New City Economical Housing

Š      Yinzhou Talent Apartments

18.     Preserving Beijing’s Spatial Tradition in Rapid Urban Development

Hui Wang, Tsinghua University

Abstract: Beijing, the capital city of the People’s Republic of China, is the national center of politics and culture as well as a well-known city with a long history in the world. Now as a fast-urbanizing city, Beijing is confronted with challenges and opportunities as well as many problems. There exist various types of conflicts between the old city and newly-built areas. Inside the old city, there are visible conflicts where historical and cultural areas are constantly eroded. Outside the old city, there are invisible conflicts where the new development areas spread disorderly.

In order to help students achieve a comprehensive understanding of the conflict between protection and high-density development from a long-term developmental perspective, this section will begin with an introduction of an investigation of the spatial situation in Beijing central city. On the basis of in-depth investigation and analysis, the key issues of high-density and high-density development in Beijing especially the conflict between the old city and the new development areas will be summarized and discussed.

In the future, how can we highlight the cultural characteristics and make full use of historical and cultural value of the old city? And how can we solve the contradictions between the old and the new and promote historical and cultural environment protection? These issues will then be discussed.

Bio: Hui Wang is an Associate Professor in School of Architecture at Tsinghua University. Specializing in architectural and urban design theories and practice, Hui Wang has been engaged in teaching and research in Tsinghua University. He has written several books, including Form and Meaning of Architectural Aesthetics and Administration Spaces in Beijing. He holds a doctor’s degree in architecture from Tsinghua University. At MIT, he will undertake an aesthetic study of urban design in Chinese cities, focusing on the form of buildings and public spaces, the mechanisms that affect form, and aesthetic cognition.

19.     Aging Society: Offering Care to the Elderly in the Confucius Society

Joan Retsinas

Abstract: Aging in China: Beyond Confucius

Every society must decide: how to care for dependent elderly? In traditional societies, like China, the family has filled that role. Indeed, Confucius cautioned that children should not live far from their parents. Today’s China no longer fits that traditional model. The one-child family, the migration to new burgeoning cities, the capitalist goal of profits – all have eroded the family-as-bulwark. China today must figure out how to care for 185 million people, projected to soar to 487 million by 2053.

This course will discuss the options for China, drawing on parallels with the United States’ experience in providing for its aged population. The course will discuss the feasibility, as well as the pros and cons, of such Western solutions as pensions, subsidized elderly housing, assisted living, nursing homes. It will discuss possible roles for the government, for the private sector, and for nonprofits. The course will ask students to engage in role-playing. In conclusion, students will speculate on the likely evolution of China’s approaches.

Bio: Joan Retsinas, AB Bryn Mawr, PhD (sociology) Brown University, has taught in the Department of Family Medicine at Brown, and as an adjunct at The George Washington University, Rhode Island College, and Tufts’ School of Occupational Therapy. Most recently she was managing editor of the monthly professional journal of the Rhode Island Medical Society. She has written on health policy, aging, and small business. Currently she writes regular columns for the Progressive Populist and PrimeTime Magazine, and is a contributing writer to Aging Today, the newsletter of the American Society on Aging.

Required Reading:

Š      China: Who Will Care for the Elderly?

Š      Aging China Draws Bets on Senior Housing

Suggested further reading: Leslie Chang's Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China



20.     Forging Greater Xi’an: China's new regional strategies and their urban outcomes

Kyle Jaros, Harvard University

Abstract: Over the past decade, efforts to build integrated urban regions around large cities have been taking shape across much of China. These central- and provincial-level “metropolitan circle,” “city cluster,” and “economic region” policies aim to address regional governance issues and enhance regional competitiveness through coordination of neighboring cities’ planning, policy-making, and project implementation. Some scholars have hailed these new efforts to think regionally. Others have questioned the efficacy of such plans, pointing to implementation difficulties. Other experts have argued that such policies are really “banners” for attracting state support and extending the reach of higher-level bureaucrats. What has remained less clear amid debates about the new wave of urban-regional initiatives is how such policies have been reshaping urban areas, urban life, and urban governance in practice.

Through a case study of the Xi’an-Xianyang integration initiative, we will try to get a better sense of why Chinese policymakers have turned toward new modes of urban and regional policy-making, and how this is remaking urban landscapes. Far from being empty slogans, national and provincial policies for building a bigger, more integrated, and more competitive “Xi’an International Metropolis” appear to have had major consequences in practice – for approaches to urban planning and new town development, for the building of public infrastructure, and for urban service provision and living environments. It is more debatable, however, whether policies in Xi’an are achieving their stated aim of building a more rational system of urban governance and laying a more sustainable foundation for urban growth.

Bio: I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University (graduation expected 2014) whose research interests include Chinese politics, the political economy of development, and the politics of urban and regional policy and planning. My current research examines the impact of state institutions and political actors on urban and regional growth patterns in China and other large developing countries. In my dissertation project entitled “The Political Economy of Metropolitan Focus in China,” I examine the political and administrative dynamics surrounding the rapid rise of large metropolitan centers across China since the late 1990s and explore why there has been variation over time and across provinces in “metropolitan focus,” or the extent to which development policies favor top cities over other areas. In a related research project, I examine the multilevel politics of urban planning and governance in China's heartland metropolis of Xi'an. I earned my undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 2005, majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and earning a Certificate in Chinese Language and Culture. I have also studied at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (2005-2006) and been a senior visiting student at the School of Government of Peking University (2011-2012).


Š      Xu, Jiang. “Governing City-regions in China: Theoretical Issues and Perspectives for Regional Strategic Planning.” The Town Planning Review 79, no. 2/3 (2008)

21.     Social Housing in China-- Explorations, Practices, and Dilemmas

Yifan Yu, Tongji University

Abstract: Since the implementation of housing reform in the 1990s, China's urban commodity housing market has been gradually established and is now relatively well developed. Meanwhile, urban social housing in the country has also continuously undertaken explorations and practices, formulating its own system of policies and building techniques, albeit at a comparatively slower pace and has yet to fulfill the enormous needs of the citizens in reality. However, with strong interventions and directives set by the central government in recent years, there has been a surge in the quantitative production of social housing, resulting in the emergence of new and unexpected dilemmas…Through interpretations of China’s social housing policies and a presentation of various social housing case studies, the lecture seeks to provide a systematic summary and analysis of the contemporary urban social housing system in China and its developments.


Bio: One of the most achieved scholars in the field of social housing in China, Yifan YU is a Professor at Tongji University Department of Urban Planning and the Vice-President of the Urban Planning Association of Shanghai. She is also a Research Project Director at the Natural Science Foundation of China, as well as a Research Fellow of Université Paris-Sorbonne.  Her publications include “The Morphology of Habitation”, “Social Housing’s Double-Marginalization Trap”, and “Approaches to Urban Design” etc. She received her PhD from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

22.     Alternative Narratives of China’s Urbanization

Jinhua Zhao, MIT

Abstract: Multiple, often highly contrasting, stories can be told about China's urbanization. While we are drawing the Urbanizing China course to the end tomorrow, we will present in the last dialogue "Alternative Narratives of China's Urbanization", and collectively re-package the 26 dialogues, 17 guest speakers, 20+ class videos  and 200+ idea notes in different frames of reference following these narratives.