Modern Chinese Cities

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Modern Chinese Cities: Transformations through Republican, Socialist, and Post-Socialist
The pre-classical idea of republican cities presented an arrangement in which city
civilizations had rulers who governed with the consent of the people. To a large extent, the
prevalence of collective rule overdid that of other systems expressly viewed as monarchies.
In the development of republics, the autocratic powers of individual rulers and dynasties
ultimately got taken away and substituted with established administrative systems that served
the will of the people. Such was the case in the establishment of republican Beijing in its
transformation from an imperial capital (YueDong and Reginald 2). With time, the express
will of the people acquired more strength to institute an outstanding power with which to
serve itself, giving a rise to an extent of capitalism.
Considering the case of Chinese cities, the establishment of capitalist systems soon
gets accompanied by an outstanding struggle to eradicate the same and replace them with
socialist systems. Thus, modern cities have to transform through the socialist development
stage. As explained by Lu, this stage deprives powerful administrative leaders authority to an
extent they soon find themselves positioned as mere and insignificant figures only present to
watch the course of events over which they have no effect (80). Yet, even in the rule of the
socialists, the element of capitalism still existed. This was vested on the claim that all surplus
was for the good of the whole population from the socialist state. Ultimately, the post-
socialist development stage of Chinese cities presents an establishment of modern structures
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instituted by the development of communes. This involved the institutionalization of essential
services, promotion of collective living, planning, and the establishment of systems that no
longer depend on individuals (Lu 102). In sum, modern Chinese cities have experienced the
republican, socialist, and post-socialist developmental stages. Typically, progression into
another stage wipes out the elements of the previous stage. However, there are cases when
traces of features in previous stages may survive into the next stage of modernism.
Republican Chinese City
As explained by YueDong and Reginald, an analogy of the Beijing City’s transformation into
a republican city presents the most outstanding elements of this transformation stage in the
life cycle of Chinese cities. It transcends from the Yuan dynasty and gets established around
1912. Notably, the whole process involves a redefinition of the city’s purpose for existence,
the elimination of elements of Beijing’s imperial past, and the creation of new spatial orders
to serve the production systems of the republicans. Hence, stabling the Republican Beijing
did not only mean eliminating the imperial system. On the other hand, it was to facilitate the
institution of new approaches to serve linkages with the countryside, other cities, and states.
Considering that the Yuan Dynasty had performed a significant role in laying the foundation
for the modernization and advancement of Beijing, the city truly represented both inheritance
and transformation from imperialism to the modern republic. Elements of construction used
in the imperial systems still existed. This was to the extent destroyed ones were still re-
instituted; such was in the case of the Zhengyang Gate. Though a number of cars existed in
the city, the elemental presence of horse drawn carts could not have been eliminated
(YueDong and Reginald 10).
At the time of transformation, the city’s spatial layout presented outstanding elements
of imperialism. With grandest buildings, city gardens, fine courtyards in royal places, this
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city adapted royal imperialism into the republican time. However, it is worth noting that
changes were made to redo most constructions using bricks instead of dirt.
Summarily, it would be in order to admit that the state established the reformation of
the city into a republican modernity. However, the whole process incorporated the state and
the residents with elementary differences in opinions, ideologies and priorities. This involved
the institution of the local authority (Municipal Council) which would run the affairs of the
city. It is at this time that the naming of streets began. Nonetheless, it did not have very
strong influence. At the same time, organization of the republican city created organised
traffic systems for horse drawn carts, cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Although transformed,
many imperial elements still existed in Republican Beijing.
Socialist Chinese City
The socialist modernity stage of Chinese cities presents what would be referred to as the
dreams of the development of an ultimate modern urban center. Upon the inheritance of
communism from Russians, the Chinese set about to construct a new society. This was highly
based on a centralized system of both politics and economics. Immediately after the
establishment of the Chinese Republic, Chinese systems preferred production to extensive
consumption. This was to the extent cities in which individuals consumed without substantial
production got considered as corrupt. A typical example of this was Shanghai. Thus, the
Chinese state would seek to establish a system with outstanding production. The resultant
element was to transfer all primary manpower into industrial productivity. This would
distinguish the hallmark of Chinese Socialist Cities (Lu 81). It aimed at instituting a socialist
market economy.
The planners of the Chinese socialist cities believed in the ultimate transfer of all
manpower and assets into industrialization for primary production. Thus, unlike the
republican system where individual commercial and other financial activities played a major
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role in determining the direction of modernization, the socialistic approach relied on
primarily on production. Between 1958 and 1960 alone, commercial establishments in
Beijing dropped by a significant 78% to pave way for industrialization and primary
production. This was accompanied by a 22% drop in employments (83). Within a short while,
the socialist cities adopted a full socialist structure with reduced elements of capitalism, and
extensive limits of industrialization. However, this was to develop into a secondary problem
whose solution could not be generated by the socialist modernism.
The growth of industrialization led to an increased number of industries and rising
populations in urban centers to facilitate production. Soon, the large population would
experience an increased scarcity of crucial consumption services (Lu 84). Another problem
was the emergence of numerous unplanned city structures with poor and substandard
construction. This came as a result of the presence of an increased urban population without
proper housing. With limited supplies for consumption, much of socialist Chinese cities
developed the political tendency of struggling for liberation from these inadequacies. On the
other hand, capitalistic habits like hoarding and unregulated pricing emerged.
To a considerable limit, Chinese socialist cities inherited very minimal elements from
the republican cities. The power of the will of the people returned to a centralized
administration engaged in centralized policy design. Again, the pursuit of individual
prosperity got overwhelmed by collective will; thus, the consideration in massive
industrialization plans. Though the structure had a well-intended will for the people, it did not
serve them well. Thus, they created a necessity for transformation into the post-socialist
Post-Socialist Chinese City
Necessitated by the challenges faced during the socialist stage of the development of the
Chinese cities, the post-socialist cities have emerged to present the true element of urban
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modernization. In their development, these cities have sought to respond to many critical
demands that were not solved by the socialist cities. Although they assume an administration
based system, they present the structure of a combined socialist and capitalist perspective
where the spirit of entrepreneurship is encouraged. Again, they allow free supply of
consumable services with the trade remaining open to the state, institutions, and individuals
(Wu 4).
Notably, a number of elements of industrialization have been inherited by modern
Chinese post-socialist cities. However, there is no compromise on other sectors of the
economy to support industrialization. If anything, the supply of tertiary services has received
notable attention from administration systems. Characteristically, individuals no longer have
any power in policy design. Instead, democratically and legally established institutions
perform this function. Unlike socialist cities, post socialist modernizations use economically
planned systems to determine an organized spatial distribution of all city elements. Thus,
industrial segments remain away from residential and business segments (Wu 7). In sum,
post-socialist Chinese cities development responded to the challenges faced by the socialist
cities. Characteristically, they are outstandingly democratized.
In conclusion, modern Chinese cities have experienced three stages of development, namely,
republican, socialist, and post-socialist. The modernity at each of these stages defines
transformations that aim at improving the previous stage. While a number of elements may
be inherited into another stage, there is almost a clear trend that very few of such occur.
Typically, on stage replaces the other because of better ideals of planning and social
structures. Thus, as the cities transform from republican through socialist to post-socialist
developments, they eliminate unwanted elements to come up with ideal ones. Such has been
the construction of modern Chinese cities.
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Works Cited
Lu, Duanfang. Remaking Chinese Urban Form: Modernity as Utopia: Planning the People’s
Commune, 1958-1960. London: Routledge, 2006. Pp 101-123. Print.
Lu, Duanfang. Remaking Chinese Urban Form: Modernity, Scarcity and Space, 1949-2005.
London: Routledge, 2006. Pp 80-100. Print.
Wu, Fulong. China's Emerging Cities: The Making of New Urbanism. Abingdon, Oxon:
Routledge, 2007. Print.
YueDong, Madeleine and Reginald, Zelnik. Republican Beijing: The City and Its Histories:
From Imperial Capital to Republican City. (Asia: Local Studies/Global Themes.)
Berkeley and Los Angeles: University Of California Press. 2003. The American
Historical Review, vol. 112, no. 5, 2007.

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