China: Urbanizing and Moving East: 2010 Census


The National Bureau of Statistics of China has just released the first results of the 2010 census. The new figures portray a radically reduced population growth rate, rapid urbanization and an unprecedented domination of population growth by the East Coast.  read more »

How China’s Megacities Have Avoided Problems of Other Developing Cities


Urbanist media can’t seem to get enough of the megacity these days. Much of the commentary surrounding this topic is disconcertingly celebratory about these leviathans despite such phenomena as overcrowding, high levels of congestion and sprawling slums.  read more »

Downtown China


In Downtown: It's Rise and Fall, 1880-1950, Robert M Fogelson says that downtowns are a uniquely American phenomenon. He refers to downtown as the commercial cores with high building densities that form "canyons" that, in some smaller urban areas, might be only a block long to a mile or more long.  Fogelson demonstrates that downtowns in the United States are largely a creation of rail transit (subways or metros, street cars and their predecessor horse cars).  read more »

Getting Married Naked


One of my girlfriends just invited me to attend her wedding ceremony next month. In our short conversation, I learned that she and her husband have already moved into their brand new, three-bedroom condo (we barely have any detached houses, called villas, in China), purchased a new car, and will have three separate wedding ceremonies: in the groom’s hometown, the bride’s hometown, and the city where they currently live. Based on this description, you are probably picturing a couple in their late 30s who must hold high-paying respectable jobs.  read more »

China, Detroit, and Houston: How Ghost Properties Compare

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Learning about China's property boom and its "ghost" cities has given me a whole new perspective on my four decades in the building, land development and consulting fields. During these periods our economy has had various ups and downs. In ‘up’ times, the rise in construction of new housing and growth in commercial developments has been quite obvious. What I have always had a problem understanding is why there seemed to be new housing projects and commercial projects that sprouted up during the bad times.  read more »

Are Chinese Ready to Rent?


In 2010 “House price” ranked third on the list of the top 10 most popular phrases used by Chinese netizens. It came to no one's surprise. In most Chinese cities housing prices have increased significantly over the past decade, with an especially sharp rise over the past three years.  read more »

A Leg Up: World's Largest Cities No Longer Homes of Upward Mobility


Throughout much of history, cities have served as incubators for upward mobility. A great city, wrote René Descartes in the 17th century, was “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could lift their families out of poverty and create new futures. In his time, Amsterdam was that city, not just for ambitious Dutch peasants and artisans but for people from all over Europe. Today, many of the world’s largest cities, in both the developed and the developing world, are failing to serve this aspirational function.  read more »

China Housing Market More Stable Than You May Think


The sensationalist reporting of rising China tends to celebrate the country’s ascent. But there is one area where both economists and casual observers see a potential disaster: the real estate market.  Media reports of skyrocketing housing prices in first tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai and photo essays of Chinese ‘ghost cities’ inject sober skepticism into the otherwise bewildering reality of rapid growth.  read more »

Rise of the Hans


When Chinese President Hu Jintao comes to Washington this week, there aren't likely to be many surprises: Hu and Barack Obama will probably keep their conversation to a fairly regulated script, focusing on trade and North Korea and offering the expected viewpoints on both. But seen from a different angle, everything in that conversation could be predicted, not from current events but from longstanding tribal patterns.  read more »

The Dispersing of Urbanism


For more than a century, people have been moving by the millions to larger urban areas from smaller urban areas and rural areas. Within the last five years, the share of the world population living in rural areas has dropped below one-half for the first time. The migration to the larger urban areas has spread to lower income nations as the countryside seemingly empties into places like Chongqing, Jakarta and Delhi.  read more »