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Planning China's Future: How planners contribute to growth and development

This SPIRe project examines evidence from China to show the significant economic, social and environmental value that a robust planning system can bring, as part of the RTPI's value of planning research strand.

The full report and summary from this research are now available.

Professor Fulong Wu, Dr Fangzhu Zhang and Zheng Wang (Bartlett School of Planning, University College London) find that the firm confidence among planners and political leaders in China that planning can be a leading force in fostering economic growth is largely due to a proactive interpretation of the role of planning in strengthening the economy as well as shaping the market according to the needs of society. It also stems from political support of planning at the highest level.

The report presents strong evidence from the Chinese case that planning and a wide spectrum of associated activities can be supporting growth by stimulating the market for land developments, shaping markets and regulating markets. Through transforming planning practices and enabling planning capacities, planning can play a leading role in generating economic value.

The report uses case studies from China to illustrate the economic value of planning including the new town developments in Songjiang, industrial developments in Kunshan as well as regional development strategies in the Yangtze River Delta amongst others.

The wider implications for policy and practice are that extreme liberalisation of the planning system should be avoided, as this would weaken the ability of planners to shape the market and its actors. Instead of solely relying on private initiatives and waiting for the development proposals from private developers, planning should be given the financial and political support to lead new developments.

The UK and China have recently committed to building a global comprehensive strategic partnership, including cooperation on economic development that form part of major projects and investments such as the National Infrastructure Plan and the Northern Powerhouse. As both countries look to learn from each other, the findings from China may be useful to provide a more positive interpretation of planning and help counter the perception that planning is a passive obstacle to economic growth.