UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning in the People’s Republic of China : the role of the city in creating a modern socialist society Johnstone, James Carl


Urbanization and economic development are features common to all nations of the world. This research has been undertaken to determine how planning for these concepts and their related problems is being approached and practiced by the Chinese people in their creation of a new and different society, the People's Republic of China. The methodology employed is one based on a literature review of theoretical and descriptive materials. Severely limited statistical information has necessitated the qualitative nature of the thesis. The People's Republic of China has embarked on a path to create a modern socialist state. The traditional exploitation of the countryside by the cities, accompanied by the more recent colonial example of the treaty port, has fostered an anti-urban attitude in China's political philosophy and in its planning actions. Introducing this outlook is one of the objectives of chapter one. A review of the literature pertaining to socialist political philosophy is the second thesis objective. Political ideology, discussed in chapter three, has been the guiding force of both urban and economic planning while on-going ideological struggle has had profound effects in shifting economic development strategies and related urbanization policies. A unique socialist model of urban and economic development is being created as the Chinese retain social and economic aspects from each stage of their ideological struggle. The third objective is to analyze available statistical information which can lend support to a discussion of urbanization and economic development. This is done primarily in chapter two. Urban and economic planning policies, discussed in chapter four, reflect China's broad objectives aimed at eliminating the difference between city and country, between mental and manual labour and between industry and agriculture. Effective linkages have been developed between urban and rural areas to facilitated the outward diffusion of growth and well-being. Dispersal of industry and technology from over-concentrated cities on the eastern seaboard is carried out through policies of industrial decentralization and rural industrialization, by the creation of a revolutionary city structure which links the urban area economically and administratively to the immediate countryside, and through programs such as "hsia fang", to take knowledge and services to rural areas. Small and medium size centres of China's traditional urban network, in acting as receivers of technology and industry, are playing a major role in fostering the structural transformation of Chinese society while efforts to control the growth of the largest urban centres themselves are meeting with success. While the Chinese do not advocate large cities as such, they are also showing that it is the form of social and political organization and not size, that determines the success of human settlements. The two basic principles of centralism and mass participation are at the heart of urban and economic planning. The byword is "centralized planning, decentralized control". Planning functions through the administrative structure presented in chapter five. If there is to be a possibility of learning more about China then additional information must be made known. The actual city planning process and the relation of the urban structure to corresponding political units and the processes and mechanisms that link them are virtually unknown. The dearth of statistical information requires correction. Housing and urban transportation are two specific areas of planning which also require extensive investigation. Despite the complexity of planning that the literature reveals, it is not presumptuous to state that Chinese socialism has produced a successful and effective planning system. While we cannot duplicate from an entirely different culture and political system, it is possible to learn some of the reasons for their success in freeing the Chinese from exploitation and also to learn of the general feeling of security and well-being among the people in cities, towns and rural areas. The value of the thesis rests in its ability to mix a compilation of literature about planning and historical political geography. The relevance of the Chinese model is not in being a prototype that can be duplicated in other cultures of the world. Its value rests in the context of the questions it raises about the structure and relationship of the city to social and economic development processes. This does not preclude the eventual adoption of similar socialist models by other nations of the world.

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