The Program on Chinese Cities (PCC), a new initiative of the Center for Urban & Regional Studies and the Department of City and Regional Planning, is located on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The purpose of the program is to gain a better understanding of the impacts of rapid urbanization on China's built and natural environments, and to explore processes to make this unprecedented growth more equitable, transparent, and socially and environmentally sustainable. PCC conducts research, training, and education to help meet China's urgent need for state-of-the-art technical expertise, policy analysis and applied research in all fields related to city planning and urban management. PCC collaborates with peer institutions and practitioners in China to facilitate development of research and training networks.
The People's Republic of China is home to 1.3 billion people. The country is in the midst of an extraordinary period of vast urbanization. Anything that happens in China happens on a massive scale--often with global implications. Urbanization and the rapid expansion of cities over the last twenty-five years present a particularly urgent challenge for policy makers, planners, and design professionals. Never before has a nation created such a vast urban landscape faster than the People's Republic of China. Fueled by a quarter century of surging economic growth, China has built more skyscrapers, malls, hotels, housing, highways, bridges, and tunnels since the 1980s than all other nations combined. Between 1981 and 2001, China erected seventy billion square feet of housing—a third of the total American housing stock. In Shanghai alone, more than 900 million square feet of floor space were added to the city between 1990 and 2004—equivalent to 334 Empire State buildings. While building at such a rapid pace there has been extensive destruction. Nearly all of Beijing's old cityscape has been bulldozed in recent years, and in Shanghai, more families were displaced by redevelopment in the 1990s than by thirty years of urban renewal in the United States. Since the 1980s, some 225 million rural people have flocked to China's coastal cities—the greatest human migration in history.
The countryside surrounding China's cities is also under siege. Not only are the city centers booming, but so are outlying districts. In China, the suburb is the city: the vast administrative limits of the Chinese metropolis include many square miles of farmland, and in recent years much of this open space has been churned into a landscape of highways, shopping malls and housing developments. This sprawl has made China the fastest growing automobile market in the world, now second in size only to the U.S. The world's largest automobile showrooms are now in China, and in many major cities hundreds of new cars are added to the streets every day. Nationwide, 30,000 miles of modern highway now stitch together China's provinces. Roads have also been rammed through some of the nation's most dense urban neighborhoods, displacing thousands of families. By 2020 China will have the most extensive national highway system on earth—bigger than even America’s interstate network. And in a variety of ways, China is following the same trajectory that turned the United States into a nation of asphalt and motorcars in 1950s. China is already the world's largest consumer of oil after the United States, and the International Energy Agency predicts that by 2030 China will be importing just as much oil as the U. S. But the growth of China's economy is fueled by more than just petroleum. China today consumes more than half the world's cement, about 40% of its steel, and a quarter of its aluminum. Binge building and the explosive pace of urbanization in recent years has also caused tremendous environmental degradation: China's cities are among the most terribly polluted on earth; rivers are open sewers; and potable water is being quickly depleted in many parts of the arid north.
The challenges facing China's cities and metropolitan regions are daunting in scale and complexity. Without exaggeration, the lives of millions will depend on how well China manages the continued growth of its cities in coming years. The collective expertise of the urban planning profession is more crucial now than ever. Meeting the China challenge requires applying state-of-the-art knowledge, "best practices" from the West, and findings from new collaborative and integrated research in new areas of urban planning. PCC is focused on: Documenting China's Urbanization, Making and Evaluating Urban Plans, Integrating Land Use and Transportation, Environmental Planning and Green Cities, and Land and Housing Policy.
The Program on Chinese Cities is a collaborative initiative of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill--one of the oldest, most prestigious planning programs in the world--and the Center for Urban & Regional Studies at UNC. Founded in 1957, the Center conducts and supports research on urban and regional affairs—research that helps to build healthy, sustainable communities across the nation and around the world. The Center's Faculty Fellows participate in both multidisciplinary research and more narrowly focused projects to generate new knowledge about urban and regional processes, problems, and solutions. By supporting this network of scholars and connecting them to government agencies and foundations that commission research, the Center plays a vital role in linking the University community to ongoing efforts that address contemporary social problems.
Located in North Carolina's Research Triangle, Chapel Hill is frequently listed as one of the most beautiful college towns in America. The region is home to several major universities and more than a dozen world-class biotech, pharmaceutical, and software companies.