Symposium on Liveable Cities with Shanghai's Counsellors' Office

Event: Sustainable Growth Model

Cities are growing - in China, Germany and everywhere else. Against the backdrop of population growth, economic and social upheavals and climate change, cities are constantly having to reinvent themselves. There is a danger that social concerns will be ignored. At the invitation of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Shanghai and the Counsellors' Office of the City of Shanghai, about 100 experts from China and Germany discussed on 22 and 23 September 2020 what makes a city worth living in. The foreign experts were connected via video.

In their welcome addresses, both Shanghai Deputy Mayor Chen Qun and FES Managing Director Roland Schmidt emphasized the need to use change to make cities more sustainable and liveable.

But what makes a city worth living in? It should be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, as Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Johann Jessen put it in a nutshell, referring to goal 11 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve this, cities need a good density, functional mix, social diversity and public infrastructure. But this also requires a targeted preservation of history and the creation of a balance between the various interest groups. To achieve this, the demands on city government are complex. For example, the goals must be designed for the long term, while at the same time offering enough flexibility and openness to deal with new developments. Furthermore, the city is part of a regional network and must therefore assume joint responsibility with the surrounding areas. In all this, responsibility and participation by civil society must be used and promoted. Because only by together shaping change can all city dwellers enjoy a good life and the exclusion of the socially disadvantaged, the elderly and children be countered. At the same time, the instruments and resources available to cities are not always sufficient, Jessen continued.

China's answer to the challenges of urban spaces lies in the concept of the People's City, as “a city by the people, for the people”. As Wang Xiao'an, Counsellor of the City of Shanghai and Chief Architect of the Arcplus Group, outlined, this model describes both the goal and the approach. In particular, the goals are social justice and equality, environmental friendliness and economic prosperity. All this requires a translation into a vision that is unique to each city, which can inspire people and activate resources, said Wang.

Hamburg Senator Dorothee Stapelfeld and Tang Zilai, Counsellor of the City of Shanghai and Professor at Tongji University, both emphasized how important the participation of residents is in all this, what formats are conceivable, but also what demands this places on politicians, administration and citizens. Tang pointed out that instead of the usual decision making by elites in the past, today it was more necessary than ever to develop goals and solutions together.

The participants agreed that livable cities need more cooperation rather than even more competition. For many cities, this requires new modes of governance. In addition to citizen participation, openness, flexibility, an integrated approach, spaces for experimentation, a more proactive approach to mistakes, acceptance of interim solutions and, last but not least, sufficient financial resources were named as central success factors.

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