Future Suzhou: XJTLU scholars discuss future cities in new book

27 Sep 2021

In the last few decades, Suzhou has transformed at a miraculous speed into an important modern city. However, it also faces planning and operation challenges brought by the changing international landscape, rapid economic development and transformation, as well as the structural changes within the growing population.

Could Suzhou continue its glory in the future on the wider global stage? A group of scholars at XJTLU aim to answer the question in their new book, Future Suzhou.

Published earlier this month, the book was edited by Dr Yunqing Xu, director of University Research Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies (UES), and Professor Joon Sik Kim, Head of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at XJTLU. The book tries to sketch out a global blueprint for Suzhou’s future, and explores how Suzhou can become a leading modern future city.

The book was co-edited by a number of scholars and research teams from XJTLU, and experts from the Suzhou Development and Planning Research Institute, with Professor Youmin Xi, Executive President of XJTLU, and Dr Xingquan Zhang, Senior Advisor to UN-Habitat, contributing to the preface.

Integrate local experience with global knowledge

In recent years, international organisations such as the United Nations and the European Union have introduced strategies and policies for future urban development, clearly stating the importance of low-carbon development and urban resilience in the pursuit of prosperity and quality life.

Meanwhile, cities like New York, London and Melbourne have also highlighted green and innovative development in their strategic plans, emphasising social equality and people’s wellbeing, as well as government capability building and innovation of governance.

Future Suzhou is the fruit of a collaboration between XJTLU researchers from countries including the US, Canada, South Korea, Italy, and scholars from renowned institutions such as UN-Habitat, the University of London and KU Leuven. The scope is international and interdisciplinary, covering areas including sustainable urban development, regional and urban planning, liveable cities and housing construction.

“In the book, we dived deep into Suzhou to understand its characteristics and status quo, on top of which, we drew on internationally-recognised theories and practices of urban development, integrating them with local experience,” says Dr Yunqing Xu.

“The global trend of urban development is people-centred. We need to achieve more sustainable growth, so that people can lead a better, happier life. Only in this way can cities remain attractive and influential to people and businesses,” says Dr Xu.

Provide new ideas for urban development

“To build an ideal ‘future Suzhou’, we need to draft the plan based on the ideas of innovation, coordination, sustainability, openness and sharing,” says Dr Xu.

According to Dr Xu, the book’s 11 chapters explore the production, life and ecology in future cities, proposing solutions to key challenges in urban development research, and integrating the future city thinking on urban planning and construction.

Professor Youmin Xi wrote in the preface that in addition to comprehensive, cross-regional research and analysis from multiple perspectives, the book also contains some unique urban development ideas, such as minding the relationship between the environment and human needs, building liveable cities for people’s wellbeing and social equality, promoting diverse tourism during the renovation of ancient townships, and developing inclusive digital economy.

“The book can be an auxiliary textbook for programmes such as urban planning and architecture. It can also inspire professionals and researchers working in urban planning, construction and management, as it offers deep insights into the future development of Suzhou and other cities,” wrote Professor Xi.

By Yi Qian

Translated by Xiangyin Han

Edited by Patricia Pieterse

27 Sep 2021