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Cool It Guys!
The China Daily Community has largely been a friendly one. Whenever I find the time, I can't resist the temptation to log-on just to read the latest gossips :)|
But alas, see what has become of an innocuous post by The Stud ?? Must it always descend into unnecessary bickering??
To be fair, part of Seneca's views have its merits although some of his sweeping remarks did not go down too well with others. We should thank him for highlighting the dangers of careless over-urbanisation. Calimero was correct to point out the errors in his post and Seneca himself had acknowledge the mistakes too. So, may I humbly suggest we adhere to the constructive theme of this Community in our views :)
Both Western and Asian civilisations have been around for "thousands of years" and it's not that cities such as Dongguan, Beijing, Chongqing, Rome, Athens and Egypt had just sprung up in the last century. So, the heated debate appears to be on the subject of Town & Country Planning which really took on a focussed role at the turn of the 1900s. Prior to that (and based on what I studied as a university student), cities evolved from economic growth. The haphazard growth followed the city structures of agrarian and mercantile trade to the later industrial revolution. It was the dirty tenements and crowded environment of the day that prompted people like Ebenezer Howard to express his concerns for the coordinated & planned development of cities. (Herein lies the similarities of Seneca :)
However, we must remember that Asian cities, by and large, are large population centres. European cities cannot be compared with them. Ricardo's theory on land economics tells us that land values are highest in the vicinity of the city centre. So, it is unavoidable that highly-populated cities will have to economise on land-use by building skyscrapers (New York and Tokyo are no exceptions).
Seneca's implication of the modernisation of Chinese cities is the result of poor planning and poor taste is most unfair and parochial. He should ask what have the Western planners achieved in the last 200 years of Hong Kong's development from a desolate island to today's concrete jungle (which he detests!), despite the wisdom and proper planning accumulated over thousands of years of Western civilisation.
Personally, I admire many of the modern cities in China today. Most of them can put Hong Kong, and even New York, Tokyo and not to mention, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham to shame in terms of conducive environmental habitat. The latter cities were not even built over thousands of years but they smack of the shortcomings highlighted by Seneca.
As the saying goes, "Rome was not built in a day". China has really opened up since the 1980s. Its modernisation may appear superficially in the form of city transformation but encompasses education, science, commerce, culture and the arts, albeit painfully slow. Sometimes I wonder what would become of China in the next 100 years (she doesn't need a thousand years for sure) - would she mature from the "learning phase" into a "creative phase"? If so, what kind of world would it be then?