2014-15 Canada-China Business Forum Magazine - Page 66

URBANIZATION it aims to have 20 per cent of the country’s energy demand sourced from renewables by 2020. Earlier in 2014, the Central government announced it would exempt electric cars and other “new energy” vehicles from purchase taxes, adding to the government’s generous subsidies for the purchase of electric automobiles. Potentially the most pressing problem facing China’s urbanization project – and indeed the general well being of its population – is water supply. In 2012, Hu Siyi, Vice Minister of Water Resources, declared that fully two-thirds of China’s cities were water-needy and that 40 per cent of China’s rivers were polluted and unfit for consumption. Part of this issue is geographical. Northern China is naturally much drier than the south. One of the solutions the Central government has turned to is the C$66.8 billion South-North Water Diversion Project, which channels water from southern and western China to thirsty cities in the north. Recognizing the problems inherent in the ambitious project, the government is also seeking ways to improve the efficiency of water usage. There are openings here for companies who can provide environmental services and green technologies. A high-profile example is the P3 in Pudong between the Shanghai government and the French water company Veolia. The project completely digitized Pudong’s water pipe system to track damage and wastage through the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Canadian companies have lagged behind European firms in terms of providing green technologies to China, but there is a large and varied market here that could be further developed with assistance from the Canadian government. A good example is the 2014 Canadian trade mission to China to promote Canadian sustainable technologies, including water treatment and soil remediation solutions. hxdbzxy/Shutterstock The new urbanization plan will affect not only cities but rural areas as well. As farmers leave the land, the Central government is shifting China’s food production system towards a North American model based on industrial agriculture. Because of China’s complicated rural 65 property rights laws, the agricultural sector can be tricky for foreign companies to navigate. But for Canadian companies willing to work closely with local partners, there may be opportunities for training and technology transfer in China’s nascent agri-food sector. Canadian food products may also find a market among China’s growing middle class. They are turning towards organic and imported foods in response to the food safety scandals of recent years. The urban service sector will also see a significant expansion as incomes rise and the population ages. China’s one-child policy is already challenging the traditional family model of elderly care. With so many single-child families, it is not uncommon for adult couples to be faced with the weighty task of caring for four older parents. Such demographic and cultural shifts will increase the demand for homes, health care and other services for seniors in China’s cities. implement urbanization targets set by Beijing. Over-ambitious investment plans may contribute to unstable real estate markets in small and medium-sized cities. One thing that is clear is that China’s urbanization will have international implications. Canadian companies who are able to provide the technology and expertise to realize China’s new urban plan will be defining a new picture of what global urbanism means in this century. \\ JC Jessica Wilczak is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto in the Department of Geography and Program in Planning. Her doctoral research examines urbanization in the greater Chengdu area following the Wenchuan earthquake. There is cause for optimism about China’s new urbanization plan. China’s leaders are committed to making growth socially equitable and environmentally sustainable. They seem to welcome international participation in this new phase of China’s development. Canadian companies looking to participate should pay close attention to locally-specific policy, economic and environmental conditions. In the near-term, urban growth and income levels will continue to be regionally uneven. There will also be severe growing pains as municipal governments work out how to integrate rural migrants into urban economies and how to finance and CANADA CHINA FORUM BUSINESS 2014-2015 ccbc.com Wei Ming/Shutterstock These opportunities come hand in hand with serious environmental concerns. China is still dependent on coal for energy production, and the surge in car ownership has left many Chinese cities highly congested and polluted. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 suggested that outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010. The glimmer of hope in this smoggy cloud is the impressive capacity of the Central government to spearhead innovative, large-scale projects. The Central government is currently the world’s leading investor in renewable energy and URBANIZATION 66