In 2005, the Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, identified urbanization in China and high-tech development in the United States as the two key factors affecting the 21st-century. Less than a decade later, in 2012, China’s urban population surpassed rural dwellers for the first time in history.
The forces behind China’s rapid transformation can be attributed to the economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping. His strategy targeted the modernization of China’s agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology fields, all carried out through urbanization, industrialization, and economic policies. Unfortunately, in its race forward, China is now experiencing many of the same problems that confront other developing countries, including competing urban and rural demands, and extreme income disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Modernization has brought a rebalancing of social organization, lifestyle, wealth, consumption, and production. It has simultaneously pitted the urgent need for new housing, infrastructure, and support facilities against the equally pressing, important—and rival—need for environmental protection, natural resources, and long-term sustainability.
The authors have a particular interest in urbanization and they conduct a quick review of unbridled urbanization and suburbanization in the United States and China. This review will help us put things into proper perspective.