Challenges

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Three examples illustrate the tremendous urban, architectural and design challenge China is facing in the coming decades:

1. In its 2008 report titled “Blue Book of Urban Competitiveness,” the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences stated that of the world’s 15 fastest growing cities, 10 were in China;

2. In China, builders are sitting on about 1.9 billion m2 of land that is yet to be developed;

3. The WorldWatch Institute in Washington says 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China.

What this mean is that (1) Chinese cities are fast developing, (2) It should be possible to identify places where development is happening and, (3) Pollution and environmental awareness is a real issue that needs to be dealt with. To add one number to the latter, pollution problems in China cost the country more than $200 billion a year, roughly 10 percent of China's gross domestic product.

Some argue that China is involved in a catching up scenario with the West. Oftentimes this has inspired Western observers to gaze upon this change with a nightmarish fascination and continuous speculation about the nation’s future. Depending on one's ideological perspective this leads to either titillating or horrifying “what if China does the same as the West”-scenario's. It should be clear that the particular political, sociological, economical, cultural, urban, industrial and educational system in China is inconsistent with the possibility or danger that the East duplicates the West. What we see is the dawn of an alternative model which features strong implications for the way China might influence the economical and political course of the developing world.

Dutch designers and architects who operate in China, or desire to do so, can only benefit from a clearer understanding off the cultural, economical, legal, educational, institutional and social characteristics of this context. From the Chinese side there is a demand for innovation, exploration of new approaches and sustainable design when brought in relation with ecological, economical and societal strategies. The question is not if there is a market for Dutch experience and knowledge in this field, but how to set up programs that target long-term engagement. This report combines the experience from creatives working in China, analysis developed by professional organizations and ongoing mappings by Dutch and international consultants and advisers up till 2009. The combination of these diverse insights, sometimes highly specific and/or generalistic, aspires to sketch the framework in which ongoing and future dialogues between the two different design cultures (Dutch and Chinese) can happen with the objective to build up and sustain longterm networks.