27 January 2011

How China will create a mega-city

City planners in south China have laid out an ambitious plan to merge together the nine cities that lie around the Pearl River Delta. The "Turn The Pearl River Delta Into One" scheme will create a 16,000 sq mile urban area that is 26 times larger geographically than Greater London, or twice the size of Wales...

Over the next six years, around 150 major infrastructure projects will mesh the transport, energy, water and telecommunications networks of the nine cities together, at a cost of some 2 trillion yuan (£190 billion)...

Twenty-nine rail lines, totalling 3,100 miles, will be added, cutting rail journeys around the urban area to a maximum of one hour between different city centres...

In the north, the area around Beijing and Tianjin, two of China's most important cities, is being ringed with a network of high-speed railways that will create a super-urban area known as the Bohai Economic Rim. Its population could be as high as 260 million...

As the process gathers pace, total investment in urban infrastructure over the next five years is expected to hit £685 billion, according to an estimate by the British Chamber of Commerce, with an additional £300 billion spend on high speed rail and £70 billion on urban transport.
Mind-boggling.  More at the Telegraph.


  1. Interesting. In the same breath that many complain about government spending, they point to China as the model developing nation that is kicking America's butt in the 21st century. And yet China's government spends a staggering amount of money on public works projects. Can you imagine the high speed rail projects mentioned in the last paragraphs of that article in the US? Ask a New Jersey resident. Is it possible that government spending isn't inherently evil?

    The cynic in me must point out two things:

    1) The urban runoff of stormwater from China's proposed plan is as staggering as their spending. The Pearl River Delta will suffer greatly (no doubt it already is).
    2) China may show a willingness to invest in public works projects that increase productivity (transport) but their dedication to other, less profitable projects (environmental regulation, health care, unemployment support) may be less forthcoming.

  2. They will eventually clean it up.
    I went to the Pearl River Delta about 5 years ago. It Reminded me of The USA 50 years ago.
    Everybody smokes, you can buy breakfast with pocket change, and there is enough Litter on the ground and in the water, to put a tear in an Indian's eye.

  3. Mega-cities are even more vulnerable to mass-destructive weapons than a distributed resource system, and would make an amazingly tempting target for a nuclear-capable opponent, whether it be the US, Russia, India, or a rogue state. Imagine a seismic or flooding event of significant magnitude, let alone bio-chem or asynchronous warfare occupying sectors of a mega-city and digging in for months or years...

    Redundant, distributed, cell-based nations that are not necessarily contiguous are a much more viable future investment, but China has always been beholden to the ideal of unification at all costs.

    We'll see how this plays out.

    Interesting story nonetheless.


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