Policy and practice of urban neighbourhood renewal and regeneration : what can China learn from British experiences?
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Urban neighbourhood renewal and regeneration have a long history in Western industrialised societies like Britain. The renewal or regeneration strategies, visions, approaches and implementations often reflect the particular political, economic, social and cultural contexts of each development period. There are abundant research literatures on the theoretical and practical elements of neighbourhood renewal/regeneration in the UK, which provide valuable references and lessons to the industrialising countries. In rapidly urbanising countries like China, traditional urban neighbourhoods are redeveloped at an unprecedented scale. Urban renewal and redevelopment projects have affected the life of a large number of urban residents. The renewal process, the mechanism and its social and economic effects were, however, understudied. This research aims to evaluate the evolution, achievements and problems of neighbourhood renewal process in Chinese cities, by following a cross-national approach. It reviews the evolution of urban renewal and regeneration theories and practice in Britain: the earliest industralised country in the world. Based on the findings, an analytical framework is established which is then used to examine and evaluate the recent urban redevelopment practice in Chinese cities. The research is based on both quantitative and qualitative data and information collected in the two countries through literature and policy reviews, fieldworks, key player interviews and a household survey in the two case study neighbourhoods: Shichahai and Jinyuchi in the inner city area of Beijing. The research found that the developments of British and Chinese neighbourhood renewal share a similar “zigzag” trajectory in which the renewal strategies focus either on economic or social objectives alternatively. Especially in recent years, urban renewal and regeneration challenges in Britain and China became more similar. Disadvantaged neighbourhoods in both countries face problems of multi-dimensional deprivation across the areas of housing, employment, education, healthcare, safety and others. This means that the British regeneration strategies and approaches could be more valuable to Chinese policy-makers and practitioners. In China, neighbourhood renewal projects always bear the influence from the West, but for the different national contexts, renewal iii projects in every period only targeted at one or several particular aspects of the “urban problems” at the time. The positive effects of renewal projects were often very limited while the negative impacts led to the emergence of unexpected new problems. Since 2000 some experimental renewal projects have a much wider remits than before, but they still focus on the “visible” problems only. The improvement of local housing condition and physical environment was very obvious and dramatic. The achievements were however cutback by the process of gentrification and population replacement. Although the new renewal mechanisms emphasised multi-sectoral cooperation, the operational and administrative structures were still far from the ideal partnership, particularly in relation to the rights of original residents. Based on the findings, a series of recommendations have been developed to improve the neighbourhood renewal practice in Chinese cities.