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Urban Sustainability Index (USI)

As a professional think tank for urban studies, the Urban China Initiative published the Urban Sustainability Index(USI) in 2010, which provided a comprehensive analysis of the sustainability shifts taking place across cities in China. USI is comprised of a group of indicators that provide a comprehensive assessment of a city’s sustainability performance across four categories: economy, society, resources, and environment. USI also accounts for the relationship between sub-categories.


USI data not only provides a rich resource for academic research, it also serves as a point of reference for China’s policy makers as they evaluate the country’s sustainable development efforts and craft urban development policy.


USI Timeline:


Nov 2010 - USI published “The Urban Sustainability Index: A New Tool For Measuring China’s Cities”. The index establishes a uniform, fact-based methodology for assessing and comparing China’s cities in achieving their efforts to achieve sustainable economic development.


Nov 2011 − UCI published “The 2011 Urban Sustainability Index”. The Index ranks 112 Chinese cities in terms of overall sustainability based on a set of social, economic, and environmental indicators. The cities studied are those designated in 2006 as “target cities for sustainable development” by China’s 11th five-year plan. The report includes a more qualitative exploration of three case study cities that showed particularly strong improvement in one or more areas of sustainability.


Feb 2012 − UCI, together with the Department of Development Planning (DDP) of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), launched a project called “China's Urbanization Indicator System”. The project is designed to build a comprehensive urban indicator system that is focused on assessing the quality of China's urbanization. For more details, please click here.


Mar 2013 − UCI published “The Urban Sustainable Index (USI) 2013”. "The Urban Sustainable Index (USI) 2013" builds upon the work carried out in USI in 2011. USI 2013 has expanded and upgraded the indicators used in USI 2011. The analysis deploys 23 metrics, which cover four categories: economy, society, resources, and environment. The index ranked 185 cities, of varying sizes and at different stages of development, by their level of sustainability from 2005 to 2011.


The indicator system serves as a quantifiable scoring tool to evaluate cities' sustainability development. With this tool, Chinese cities can identify models for urbanization development both within China and abroad, based on their own stage of development. Depending on how they scored in each category and their overall score, Chinese cities can also identify their advantages and disadvantages, craft development strategies, and evaluate the potential impact and effectiveness of development policies.


Jun 2014 − UCI established “China City Database” on the basis of large urban development index data in 2013. The Database provides raw data on 185 Chinese cities and 11 international cities, sustainable growth rate and cities ranking, etc. It is available for download for those who are interested in urban development. In June 2014, “China City Database” was established.


Apr 2017 − UCI published “The Urban Sustainable Index (USI) 2016”. 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.


Apr 2017 − The Urban China Initiative (UCI) on Apr. 14, 2017 launched the 2016 Urban Sustainability Index (USI) Report in Beijing. Over 30 experts from the public and private sectors participated in a heated discussion on the 2016 Urban Sustainability Index (USI) Report. For more details, please click here.

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