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One Billion City Dwellers Forecast

Staff Reporter – SCMP | Updated on Oct 20, 2008

The mainland’s urban population could reach almost 1 billion in the coming years, the president of the International Institute for Urban Development said in Beijing yesterday.

Lian Yuming told a forum that not only would China witness rapid growth of its urban population, but the widening wealth gap would also likely intensify in the coming decades.

He predicted that more rural people would move into cities and the urban population would increase to 915 million by 2025.

China would also have many more mega-cities – cities with more than 10 million residents – including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin , Wuhan , Chongqing and Chengdu .

These cities, Professor Lian said, would face serious problems such as traffic congestion, resource shortages and pollution.

The influence of city clusters – the three key ones being the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area – would rise further, and they could play a commanding role in the national economy and development.

A transient population would continue to be the driving force behind the rapid growth of mainland cities, Professor Lian said. He estimated that the urban population would increase by 350 million by 2025 with the transient population – mainly migrant workers and jobseekers from the countryside – accounting for 240 million.

Professor Lian, who also teaches at the Communist Party School, said the middle class would continue to be the dominant force in cities, and their emergence would be a key factor behind the rise of civic society and democracy.

In terms of infrastructure, Professor Lian said air transport would likely become the key mode of transport and the number of airports would reach 244 by 2020.

But he warned that government needed to pay attention to the country’s widening wealth gap.

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