State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

A Dialogue Between Two Cities, New York and Shanghai

Image of Shanghai by Ricky QI

China’s economic growth continues at a staggering pace as we enter into their 12th Five-Year Plan. GDP per capita has never been higher, and as nearly 20% of the world is lifted out of poverty, the enormous migration of Chinese from rural regions to urban centers places a tremendous strain on society, natural resources, and the economy. The urban population in China is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years, meaning over a billion people will relocate to the metropolises of China. Among these cities, none expect to see more growth than Shanghai, which hasexperienced a 25% population growth since 1990.

Shanghai is the financial and commercial center of mainland China, comparable to New York City in the US. Combining heavy industry as well as an advanced service sector, millions of poor migrate to cities in search of greater opportunities; meanwhile the preexisting urban residents continue to gain wealth at an unprecedented rate, expanding into fields such as international trade and technological innovation. However, disparity between the destitute and the affluent within urban areas is increasing at an alarming rate and proper planning becomes vital to maintaining the type of growth China has experienced in recent years.

Without proper planning and readjustment for these societal changes, China is in a fragile state wherein civil unrest and environmental hazards have the potential to undermine the unparalleled progress that it has made in the last 30 years. On March 23, 2011 we will have the opportunity to reflect on the effects that migration and urbanization have on China’s economic system and policies in order to develop better plans for the future. We hope that these panels highlight the role of cities like Shanghai and New York in leading the way for environmentally sustainable, yet economically sound agendas that have the potential to raise the standards of living for over 25 million people.

As China moves forward into the limelight alongside the United States as a global leader, both Shanghai and New York can benefit from collaborating and becoming centers for sustainable urban economic development. These cities will serve as an example and demonstrate to other economic centers throughout the world, the full potential of international cooperation towards a common goal of integrating economics and sustainability.

The workshop sponsored by the Earth Institute China 2049 Program will provide a platform for policy makers, business leaders and academics in Shanghai and New York City to exchange their knowledge and experience on these issues.

If you are interested in the conversation, feel free to join us. To learn more about this and RSVP, click here. For more information on other events happening at the Earth Institute, go to

(written by: Juliette Li, edited: Tamara Plummer)

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Nicole Arsenault
13 years ago

‘Sustainable urban economic development’ is certainly the ‘key,’ and not growth-at-all-cost as has long been the model. If such foresight existed before their recent growth, you would like to think that the situation wouldn’t be so dire at present…

13 years ago

Well this is where we are now Nicole , there is not much we can do to change the mistakes made in the past apart from learn from them .

Elizabeth Wallace
Elizabeth Wallace
13 years ago

From the article: “As China moves forward into the limelight alongside the United States as a global leader”….isn’t it already?

Gabriel Standard
12 years ago

Elizabeth, they clearly have been and long will be a global leader. But in the West, it seems most people do not want to acknowledge the fact…
11 years ago

This is great!#