CHINA: Future of rapid urbanisation

From critiques of the Shanghai World Expo logo and the Expo's unsustainable aftermath, to how changing ideologies and economic regimes are positively transforming urban spaces, a Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University in Melbourne is shining a spotlight on the impact of rapid urbanisation in China.

At a recent two-day workshop, Re-Imagining City Futures in China, discussions centred on mass internal migration, climate change, cultural stressors and issues related to future sustainability.

RMIT Professor Manfred Steger initiated and opened the workshop which was co-convened with the prestigious Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Steger gave an in-depth interpretation of the Shanghai World Expo logo that focused on the connection between local, national and global symbols.

Professor Frank Zhang Xinhua, Director of the SASS Centre for Policy and Strategic Studies, said: "Professor Steger's interpretation throws new light on the Expo logo, even for us here in Shanghai."

Director of the United Nations Global Compact Cities Program, RMIT's Professor Paul James, talked about the tensions in urban sustainability: "The dominant imagery contained in television advertising, planning projections and mega events such as the Shanghai Expo, is in screaming tension with the way we actually build cities," James said.

"It is indicative that most of the Expo - with its slogan 'better city, better life' - will be pulled down after the event is finished."

RMIT's Associate Professor Chris Hudson presented her research findings on changing cultural practices and urbanisation in Chongqing, a major city with a population of 32 million in central western China.

Hudson's research shows changing ideologies and economic regimes have transformed urban spaces and that these altered spaces are leading to new cultural practices and new forms of urban performance.

"Extremely rapid urban development leads to almost overnight restructuring of city spaces, which end up being revamped and made aesthetically pleasing in new and different ways," she said.

The RMIT team also included Dr Jennifer Gidley, President-elect of the World Futures Studies Federation, who presented on 'Shifting Metaphors to Re-Imagine Post-Industrial City Futures'.