ISSUES2017 No.1
Editor’s Note: The experience of developed countries shows that, during the process of urbanization, especially when it accelerates from the early stage to the stable stage, cities usually undergo continuous expansion both quantitatively and spatially. This is exactly the reality in China today. Since stepping onto the accelerating track of urbanization in the late 1970s, China has seen an annual urbanization rate increase of over 1%, which implies a rural-urban migration of about 15 million people and billions of square meters of new urban constructions every year to accommodate and serve them. As both the demographic and construction increments have to be settled on land, urban expansion has appeared necessary, with the cities’ built-up area increasing yearly by 1,500 km2 since 1996 and the average for a single city doubling to 79.4 km2 in 2015. The figures represent the great achievements of China’s urbanization, yet as well some challenging consequences caused by the sustained urban expansion. From the micro perspective of a single city, in particular the big and mega ones, it has resulted in the fading of farmlands and green spaces, increase of commuting distance and time, spatial segregation of housing, and unequal distribution of public services, all of which remarkably damaged both the livability of the city and the happiness of its residents. From the macro perspective of the whole country, the fact that more than 94% of its population live on less than 44% of its land area in the east, which includes most of its best farmlands of high productivity also alarmed the environmental and food-supply safety. It is the time to ask the question of whether Chinese cities can continue to expand while China’s socio-economic development continues, as Josep Lluis Sert did with the question of “Can Our Cities Survive?” back in the 1940s facing the radical urban changes in the early 20th century. Obviously, the resource and environment restrains make the answer tend to be “No.” Following China’s policy of New Urbanization in 2014, the concept of inventory-based planning was put forward, advocating the future urban development rely on more efficient use of the existing construction land reserve rather than further increment. As industrial land is an important construction land reserve, brownfield redevelopment started to attract the attention of many Chinese cities undergoing rapid growth, in view of the advantageous location in the city, rich legacy of industrial buildings of high quality both structurally and aesthetically, and less burden of residential relocation during redevelopment. However, the fact of contamination reminds that brownfield redevelopment is not only an issue of reshaping the physical environment, but also an issue of ecological restoration and environmental purification, as well as social restructuring and cultural heritage, whose success relies on long-term views and multi-disciplinary collaborations.

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