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How Big Can China's Cities Get?

Adam Minter, a journalist at Bloomberg View, recently quoted Alain Bertaud, a Senior Research Scholar at New York University’s Marron Institute, in an article titled "How Big Can China's Cities Get?". City officials trying to deal with Shanhai's rapid expansion and dense population are planning to admit a mere 800,000 new residents over the next 24 years. To supplement this population cap, they have developed a plan in which they " envision Shanghai as the high-end hub at the center of a massive "city cluster" comprising 30 urban areas -- with a staggering total population of 50 million."

The plan "could help solve a growing dilemma: Many of China's biggest cities have simply reached their geographic and demographic limits.

'Adding more density to the cities won't work anymore,' says Alain Bertaud, a senior research scholar at New York University who has consulted in China for decades. The problem, he says, is that those cities are increasingly fragmented."

China's planners are hoping that the new clusters can reap the advantages of the old ones, but with more order and efficiency. That won't be easy. Transportation poses a particular challenge: High-speed rail and subways can move commuters between cities, but the final journey -- from station to workplace or home -- is much harder. (Bertaud notes that China's urban planners "are very interested in self-driving cars.")

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