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Let people have a say in city construction and planning

Updated: 2014-10-21 13:50
By Li Yang (chinadaily.com.cn)

President Xi Jinping openly showed his dislike of some ugly public buildings. To improve the professionalism and appearance of city construction and planning, he urgently needs to cut red tape and let the professionals and the people enjoy their right of say in city construction and planning, says an article in Beijing Youth Daily. Excerpts:

City planning and construction are important public affairs, and must be decided by professionals, the public and the government together. Many weird-shaped constructions and useless, yet costly, landmark construction projects solely built to sweeten a place’s image are often decided by individual officials, without professional analysis and assessment.

Constructions are more than people's shields against the natural environment, but a symbol of cities' culture and history. Yet, it is very difficult to find beautiful constructions in today’s Chinese cities, even if the country uses more than half of the world’s cement supplies each year.

Chinese constructions are short-lived. Surveys show the average lifespan of modern Chinese buildings is only 30 years. Their fates are decided by the governments. To make room for a new city square or shopping mall, a large historical block that has stood hundreds of years can be demolished. The investment in infrastructure constructions stokes the local economy, an important index for local officials’ promotion, and creates opportunities to embezzle public funds, as the trials of many corrupt officials show.

China has its own construction history, tradition and characteristics. But the officials turn a blind eye to these legacies, and architects and city planners’ suggestions. The government officials, in many cases, have supreme power in deciding the looks of public buildings based solely on their personal tastes. The result is a sweet dream to the officials, and a nightmare for the public.

The ugly public buildings show how distorted the power relations are among government, market and society in China. Redefining these relations is a core task of China’s reform.

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