The people's skyline

Updated: 2013-01-15 12:33

By Erik Nilsson (China Daily)

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The people's skyline

The people's skyline

Illustration by Guillermo Munro, [Photo by Zhang Ye and Feng Xiuxia / China Daily]


Everyday folks need a voice in urban planning, a prominent architect and author tells Erik Nilsson.

China's cities shouldn't be devised only by planners and officials but also by the public, Chinese-American architect James Jao says in his latest book, Straight Talk About China's Urbanization. Residents' participation is becoming more important as the country's urbanization accelerates, pushing the global rate to an unprecedented velocity, Jao says. China's urban growth accounts for about half of the planet's over the past 14 years. "The government wants to hear the public's perspectives but lacks avenues," Jao says. "We must encourage the public to raise opinions and voices. But they first need to know the basic theories of planning." That's where Straight Talk comes in. The book is a layman's guide to Chinese urbanization from the "urban doctor", as Jao is called by officials, including Vice-Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Qiu Baoxing.

The book's user-friendly format makes it like a 250-page magazine. Chapters are diced into short articles, and color photos slice plain-language text into bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest.

While it addresses Chinese concerns, the book is meant as a primer to introduce the realities of Chinese urbanization, he says.

"There isn't much English-language communication about China's urban planning," Jao says.

"Some books have a lot of information, but the format isn't for ordinary readers. I hope it stimulates others to write similar books. Ordinary people care about cities because the cities are theirs."

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