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Caution urged in China's urbanization race
Date: 2011/3/31 Click: 1292
Tightly holding the hand of his six-year-old grandson, Xue Songlin pauses at the side of a busy street in Beijing, waiting for a break in the traffic.

"The road has been widened, but that is all for cars. Now I have to go a long distance to cross the road. It's not as convenient for walkers as before," Xue said, adding that the road was once a leisurely route for pedestrians and cyclists.

The "upgrading" of the road to the detriment of many ordinary people typifies the growing trend of luxury urban construction in the pursuit of profits and a decent GDP figure, say critics.

According to Luo Yameng, head of the China City International Association, local governments can achieve considerable profits by developing land through fast and large-scale construction projects.

Besides profits, a decent urban image cultivated by skyscrapers and luxury products is always a shortcut for city officials to showcase their achievements, Luo said. He added that an urban image competition among Chinese cities was very common.

Li Jingwen, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, called for the inclusion of more common people in the decision-making process for urban construction.

Li cited a feedback system that was adopted by many cities to solicit ideas from residents on urban planning and development.

Luo said: "The ultimate goal of urbanization should be people-oriented. Everybody should have the chance to enjoy the fruits of urbanization - not just the rich ones."

Critics also warn that many Chinese cities are becoming obsessed with boosting high-end public services, while ordinary people wait in long queues to see a doctor or lose their open spaces.

According to Xu Guangjian, vice dean of the public management college at the Renmin University China, it is reasonable to have privately owned education and health services for high-end consumers. However, public services set up by the government should strive for equality for all.

"Urban public services should be open, fair and equal, and provide specific service products in accordance with the demands of different people," Xu said.
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