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China envisions vast urban clusters of 50 million people

(Anton Balazh/

Imagine a vast urban area, broader than any city on Earth, and home to 50 million people. Adam Minter reports for Bloomberg View that China envisions at least 19 such “urban clusters.”

Shanghai would be the centerpiece of a massive metropolitan zone that would tether 30 nearby cities. Other major clusters would be situated along the Beijing-Tianjin corridor, Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River.

The idea is to better integrate regional cities on infrastructure, economic development and governance. With large cities such as Shanghai densely populated and expensive to live in, low-income workers are increasingly pushed to the periphery, making it difficult to reach jobs. Under the urban cluster concept, more affordable housing would be added throughout the zones. Improved high-speed rail service between cities would make it easier for people in outlying areas to reach jobs.

“The effect could be transformative,” Minter writes. “For one thing, it will create the world’s biggest labor markets, and further urbanize a country that’s still more than 40 percent rural.” For the plan to work, new regional authorities would be required to regulate everything from traffic to pollution. The article notes that the Peal River cluster that includes Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong formed without the benefit of such regional governance.

Bloomberg View

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