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The political economy of Rail plus Property Development in China's urban speed machine

Authors: Congcong LI*, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Natacha Aveline , Centre national de la recherche scientifique, France
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: urban speed machine, local land politics, rail and property development
Session Type: Paper
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China’s urban transformation has been facilitated by ‘urban speed machine’, as local leaders are motivated by political imperatives to achieve ‘fast city growth’ under state-dominated growth agenda. Municipal governments have heavily invested in delivering infrastructure projects, particularly metro systems, that drive economic growth and spatial development. Frequently practiced land financing-led investment becomes unsustainable, as it generates problem of debt accumulation and unplanned sprawl. Some cities have shifted from this city-wide ‘macro-value capture’ strategy to an equally idiosyncratic, transit-centered land value capture approach by application of rail plus property (R+P) model which metro company directly involve in property development around stations. We argue that local land politics has become a dominant feature in planning and investment of metro projects within the ‘urban speed machine’, characterized by underlying interest to generate fiscal revenue and political capital through large-scale land development projects. In this sense, regional variability among cities imply differing motivating politics and economies within the institutional setting of local states that demand case-specific assessment. We examine two case studies, Shenzhen and Nanjing, which exhibit differing responses under the pressure of urban growth agenda. The former attempted unparalleled policy innovation in mainland China to grant metro company exclusive government support in R+P development while the latter ambitiously pursued metro construction to meet growth target, resulting in under-utilized and financially unsustainable projects. We discuss the irreplicability of Shenzhen’s experience in light of unique institutional settings of the Special Economic Zone.

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