Apr. 14, 2017, Beijing – The Urban China Initiative (UCI) on Friday launched the 2016 Urban Sustainability Index (USI) Report. In the report, according to 23 metrics that cover areas of the economy, society, resources and environment, 185 cities of varying sizes and at different stages of development are ranked by their level of sustainability from 2006 to 2014. Built on the achievements of USI 2013, USI 2016 further examines and enriches the main conclusions of the basic laws of China’s urban sustainability. Furthermore, based on an innovative index system framework, the report also evaluated the innovation capabilities level of 161 cities in China.
Over 30 experts from the public and private sectors participated in a heated discussion on the 2016 Urban Sustainability Index (USI) Report. XIANG Wei, Head of the Urbanization Division of the Department of Development Planning of NDRC; SHI Yulong, Director of the Institute of Spatial Planning and Regional Economy of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research; LIU Yong, Head of Research of the Department of Development Strategy and Regional Economy of the Development Research Center of the State Council; LIU Guili, President of the Institute of Regional Planning of the China City Development Academy; HU Min, Director of Low Carbon Development Program of the Energy Foundation; Sandra Retzer, Head of Cluster “Sustainable Urbanization, Transportation, Energy” of GIZ; and CHEN Boping, China Director of World Future Council spoke at the launch as panelists.
SHI Yulong, Director of the Institute of Spatial Planning and Regional Economy of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research, praised the evaluation system of urban innovation capability in USI 2016, which deepens the concept of urban sustainability and transforms this concept to version 2.0. Moreover, he interpreted the ranking in USI 2016 from the perspective of the influences of administrative level on the resources allocation. He illustrated that in USI 2016, only one city in the top 10 is sub-provincial city while in the scope of the 6 cities that drop out of top 10, 4 cities are sub-provincial. In his opinion, this fact shows that administrative level exerts a subtle influence on the resources allocation. Furthermore, it is worthy of attention that the financial capability is the internal links of the economic development of western cities, small cities and resource-based cities.
The USI 2016 Launch was extensively covered by domestic and international mainstream media, including People's Daily, Global Times, China Economic Times, China Business News, Harvard Business Review, Caixin, China City News, South China Morning Post, Jiemian, Real Estate Observation.
Key findings of the 2016 Urban Sustainability Index (USI) Report include –
1. Most Chinese cities have seen a gradual improvement in sustainability from 2011 to 2014, mainly driven by social and economic improvement. Improvement in healthcare coverage rate under society index, as well as significant increase in government capacity investment under economy index has dramatically improved the social and economic indicators.
2. According to the data of 2014, the top scorers in sustainability were Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Zhoushan, Zhuhai, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Weihai, Huzhou, Zhongshan and Shaoxing. Compared to 2011, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Zhuhai and Guangzhou were still among the Top 10 performers.
3. Taizhou, the fastest-growing city among large-sized city economies, demonstrated a different development model from others. Rather than relying purely on economic growth, the city focused on progress made on social welfare. For many cities with relatively backward social development, improving public service and providing good living conditions for citizens, might be the most effective way of enhancing city attractiveness and competitiveness, and improving its sustainability level.
4. In general, eastern regions showed an average of higher sustainability level than any other regions in China. The level of sustainability is gradually weakening from eastern coastal areas to inland areas. Cities with the strongest level of sustainability are mostly concentrated in economically-advanced eastern China. The development level of different city clusters was quite varied. Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta were the indisputable leaders in 2014 sustainability ranking.
5. Urban sustainability level is positively related to economic scale, urban population scale, and built area in the city. In general, cities with higher GDP, more population and more land usage show better performance in sustainability. However, turning points occur on the correlation curve of sustainability level and the above indicators. Support on scarce mobile resources has a positive impact on improving urban sustainability level, but decision-making turning points also exist. Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin have all crossed multiple decision-making turning points of sustainable development.
6. From the evaluation of the urban innovation capabilities which influences the urban sustainability, top 10 performers in overall innovation capabilities were Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Wuhan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xi’an and Zhongshan. Although many cities attach great importance to improve their innovation capabilities, only some cities, such as Shenzhen, achieve relatively high innovation output with relatively low innovation input and space and have higher innovation efficiency.
7. In terms of geographic patterns, city innovation capabilities in eastern regions were stronger than those in mid and western regions. Cities with high scores in innovation capabilities, capacity, investment and output were largely in Beijing, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta. In terms of the performance of city clusters, Jing Jin Ji cluster, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta are more mature state-level city clusters.
8. Innovation capabilities of cities are highly related to their overall sustainability level. With improvement in urban innovation capabilities, the sustainability level of cities will significantly increase. In addition, urban innovation index is positively related to social development, non-agricultural value of production and energy efficiency.
9. In terms of drivers of urban development, growth in secondary industry and service industry will help boosting the sustainability level of cities. The development of secondary and service industries provides a new engine of growth for cities with low sustainability level, or becomes the internal driver for these cities to stay out of difficulties and to achieve virtuous cycle of sustainability.
10. The more coordinated in the development of population, industries and land in cities, the higher the sustainability level of cities. We have also identified some cities with highest potential risks of uncoordinated development of population, industries and land. More attention should be paid to identify core reasons and suitable solutions.
The Urban Sustainability Index (USI) is jointly developed by the Urban China Initiative (UCI) and the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). USI 2016 comprised of a series of indicators that provide a comprehensive assessment of a city’s sustainability in four categories: economy, society, resources and environment. The study also looks into the relations between sub-categories.
The Urban Sustainability Index is a flagship research that is updated every two years. The Urban China Initiative (UCI) is a joint initiative of the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University, and McKinsey & Company. Its mission is to catalyze the next stage of China’s urbanization by developing and piloting effective and innovative solutions to China’s urbanization challenges. It aims to evolve into an independent public-private think tank focusing on China’s urbanization issues.