On March 20, the Fairbank Center hosted the Harvard-MIT-UBC Urban China Conference to explore questions around China’s rapid urbanization, delving into socio-political and economic challenges confronting China today. Conference participants examined urban commerce, governance, and efforts to build urban society, looking at the role of planning—vs more organic development—in China’s urbanization.
The scholars presented original research on topics ranging from urban redevelopment to Beijing’s efforts to build a new “smart city” in Xiong’an, and from the hukou 户口residential registration system to the lives of urban street vendors. Presenters ranged from masters students to professors, with many bringing insights from fieldwork conducted in China on a variety of topics since 2020.
The conference featured four panels and 16 speakers, with discussion comments from Harvard Business School Professor Meg Rithmire, Barnard Professor of Architecture Nick Smith, Dr. Li Hou from the MIT Sustainable Urbanization Lab, and Professor Siqi Zheng, Director of the Sustainable Urbanization Lab at MIT. Participants joined from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and China.
The conference was organized by Julia Harten (Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia), Li Hou (MIT Sustainable Urbanization Lab), Xuanyi Nie (Visiting Scientist, Harvard School of Public Health), Saul Wilson (Visiting Scholar, Fairbank Center), and Guanchi Zhang (S.J.D. candidate, Harvard Law School). The conference, as well as a series of weekly talks on urbanization, have been supported by the Harvard Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the MIT Sustainable Urbanization Lab, and the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC.