Drexel professor discusses China’s urbanization problems

By on March 23, 2016

By Kyeland Jackson — 

China’s booming urbanization movement foreshadows potential economic problems, according to a Drexel professor.

Presenting in Ekstrom library March 23, professor Richard Dilworth revealed his findings in a presentation discussing China’s future through the lens of urbanization. His speech was part of the Asia In Focus Speaker Series, a number of speeches tasked to increase awareness about China.

Dilworth compared urbanization in China to the United States, noting speculative investments both powers made during those times. He said the U.S. invested in a number of towns during the 1800s as large numbers of people began migration to the West. Many of those towns remained empty, waiting for migratory patterns to shift in their favor.

China draws parallels, investing in real estate properties that remain largely empty. One survey Dilworth quoted said there are 49 million vacant housing units in China.

Regardless of leaps in urbanization, China’s economy is in danger. Private debts in China are at their greatest period of rapid increase ever. Quoting the banker Richard Vague, Dilworth said this is a sign of impending economic crisis.

“When private debts get over 150 percent of the GDP, you can assume a lot of that was invested over capacity,” he said.

While there are vast numbers of ghost towns, China is in a better position to fill those areas now than the US was in the 1800s.

“The urban population in China is several hundred million people,” Dilworth said.

Those large populations also lend political power to the cities and provinces. Increased representation allows for more power and autonomy from federal control.

The city of Shanghai is one example, becoming as a powerful ally for one of the presidents before Xi Jinping. Some cities grow large enough to become provinces, lending them more political power. This is sometimes deterred by Xi Jinping’s regime, as Dilworth said one province was split into two – possibly to minimize it’s power.

Xi Jinping’s regime has been historically repressive, with one Princeton professor calling him “one of the most repressive leaders we’ve seen in China in the last three decades or so.”

Dilworth concluded saying current urbanization problems will likely lead to a government bailout.

“This occurs in every country. The U.S. had the same problem. There are ghost towns in Minnesota,” Bill, a lecture attendee, said. “Overall, this lecture has expanded my view of the problems that might be occurring in China right now.”

The last speech of the Asia in Focus Speaker Series will be Thursday April 7 in Ekstrom Library room W104. Titled “Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance without Liberalism,” Boston University professor Dr. Jeremy Menchik will present the lecture.

Photos by Ali Davis / The Louisville Cardinal

About Kyeland Jackson

Editor-in-Chief at The Louisville Cardinal.

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