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An authentic text on the nature of the Chinese city

Since the late 1970s, China has undergone perhaps the most sweeping process of urbanization ever witnessed. This is typically understood as a story of growth, encompassing rapid development and economic dynamism alongside environmental degradation and social dislocation. However, over the past decade, China’s leaders have claimed that the country’s urbanization has entered a new stage that prioritizes “quality.” What does China’s new urban vision entail, and what does the future hold in store?

Richard Hu unpacks recent trends in urban planning and development to explore the making and imagining of the contemporary Chinese city. He focuses on three key concepts—the “green revolution,” “smart city movement,” and “great innovation leap forward”—that have become increasingly influential. Through case studies of Beijing, Hangzhou, and Hefei, Hu analyzes how attempts to achieve greater sustainability, promote data-driven governance, and foster innovation have fared on the ground. He also considers the experimental city Xiong’an in terms of China’s idealized vision of the urban future and investigates how the recent experiences of Hong Kong relate to regional and national development projects.

Reinventing the Chinese City provides a careful accounting of the ideas that have dominated urban policy in China since 2010, emphasizing key continuities underlying claims of novelty. Shedding light on the transformations of the Chinese city, this book offers new perspective on the factors that will shape the trajectory of urbanization in the coming decades.

Link to the publisher.

Book review in The China Quarterly; The Developing Economies.

Interview with the China–Britain Business Council: How China Reinvented Its Cities.

Richard Hu integrates both inside-out and outside-in perspectives and offers a holistic, balanced, and insightful reading of the real China. His analysis captures a particular kind of transversality, jumps into the unknown, and explores possibilities that go beyond the familiar. He unpacks an astounding array of complexities in China’s transformation that we in the West might have overlooked or forgotten. Yes, this is a splendid text worth reading!

— Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

The path from small, poor villages dotting a vast desolate Asian hinterland to the world’s largest middle-class urbanity in four decades is impressive and compelling. Richard Hu guides global readers through China’s metropolitan rise with analytical sophistication that shows both promise and flaws of the Chinese megacities. He presents China’s new cities not as clones of the West but as a new genre of city building and an authentic attempt at reinventing urbanity. This is a timely text for policymakers, environmentalists, urban planners, and architects as we try to build cities of and for the future.

—Edward J. Blakely, Emeritus Professor of City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, and former President of the Pacific Rim Council on Urban Development

Over the last decade, China has engaged a new, centrally led path of urban transformation with the aim to achieve a new-type urbanization connecting socialist principles with environmental concepts. Yet, the thinking behind this shift, the planning tools, and the national goals are difficult to grasp for scholars and practitioners outside China. Richard Hu builds on his first-hand knowledge of China and of international planning discussions to explore the new urban era. Notably, he explores the historical conditions that shape the present and influence future planning. This important book provides unique, refreshing insights into contemporary China for a global public.

—Carola Hein, Professor and Head of the History of Architecture and Urban Planning, Delft University of Technology, and President of the International Planning History Society



This book provides a compact, lucid, and timely account of Chinese cities at the leading edge of urbanization. With China hitching its socialist modernization to indigenous innovation, cities are being charged with realizing the vision of a smart, livable, green future. Richard Hu does an admirable job of showing both top-down and bottom-up actions shaping cities into innovation hotbeds, the emerging lessons for others, and the way forward being charted by planners. It is a must-read for experts and those interested in the urban facets of China’s development.  

—Shahid Yusuf, Chief Economist of the Growth Dialogue, George Washington University


Richard Hu provides a probing, well-informed, and cogently organized account of how China is crafting its “new normal” of urbanization in its era of a green revolution, smart city commitment, and post-industrialization. 

—Peter G. Rowe, Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor

Figure 7.2 China's urbanization structure.jpg

China's urbanization structure

Hong Kong in duality

Figure 5.4 Spatial structure of Xiong'an.png

Xiong'an plan

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