China is a modern, dynamic country that is currently undergoing such a remarkable period of regeneration and renewal that a visitor returning after ten years away would find it difficult to recognize the place. It is a country of brand new cities, and, as factories are built and the economy booms, people are flooding into these thriving urban centres at an alarming rate. At first, it was the great cities along China’s southern coast which experienced sudden population growth, but the demand for urban living amongst China’s poor, largely rural population is such that completely new cities far from the sea are now rising up and expanding outwards.
Chongqing is one of these great new cities. It’s a huge, sprawling metropolis of half-built skyscrapers towering cranes wrapped in grey clouds of wintry mist and man-made pollution, and its mighty yet monotonously uniform buildings stretch far into the distance. Its population already exceeds 30 million, and with 40,000 people making their way to the city from the countryside every month, this population growth shows no sign of slowing down.
This marked shift from rural to urban living has worried many of China’s national decision makers, but not its urban planners. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the idea of population movement on a scale not experienced up to now, these architects and designers are rising to the challenge and attempting to meet the needs of their new citizens. In the next two decades, China plans to create 20 new cities, designed to meet the needs of an estimated 12 million people whom the government expect to move from the countryside.