One of the reasons why I chose my company name is because it connects to the city – and with the city & my focus on sustainability in Asia, it connects to the theme of sustainable urban development. A hot topic in Asia, where many places are quickly urbanizing. And where it is becoming increasingly important to find ways to build sustainable and smart cities that use resources efficiently and provide a good standard of living for the millions of people who make that city their home. Unsurprisingly, a topic that appears on my blog regularly as well.
It is also a topic that gets a lot of attention in China, where the rate of urbanization will lead to over 70% of the population living in cities by 2030. At the same time, the environment is suffering from this scale of urbanization and of the decades of economic growth in China. How can these two developments be brought together?
The Netherlands and China have been collaborating on sustainable urban development for several years already, with government commitments from both sides. For example, it is the leading theme of the upcoming business delegation accompanying the Dutch king and queen to China. Furthermore, Dutch and other European architecture firms see opportunity in the green building segment in China.
But how can Dutch businesses work on this successfully in China?
I asked fellow-entrepreneur Xiaocun Ruan of East West Urban Consultancy, also based in The Hague and linking developments on sustainable urban development in China and the Netherlands.
Why do you do what you do?
Sustainability is not just a label when you want to sell your product; sustainable urban development should not be a slogan when you promote your city and projects.
Sustainability is a consciousness when you think, do and live in everyday’s life: your action of today should not result in the discomfort for others and for the next generation.
When I see the rapid economic & urban development in China in the last decades, which also resulted in environment decline on a great scale, this worries me. As an urban planner educated and working in China and Europe for almost 30 years, I would like to alert the Chinese urban planners and decision makers to change the way they think and do things, open their mind for other countries’ urban development experience in order to have a balanced economic and urban development in the future.
What can the Netherlands and China learn from each other in the field of sustainable urban development?
China can learn from the Netherlands on the following aspects:
- Sustainable urban development system, which means sustainability in different levels and aspects, from city, districts, neighborhoods to building levels, integrated planning such as urban planning, traffic planning, landscape planning and water & infrastructure planning;
- Decision making, from decision made by one person to group (experts) decision making
On the other side, China is famous for its speed in terms of realizing sustainable projects, also in big scale sustainable urban development, there are quite a lot of eco-city and eco-island projects being realized in China, I think that the Netherlands can learn from this.
What is your advice to a European company trying to become active in this field in China?
The first thing is to get to know your partner in China well, to build a strong relationship with them and to maintain it.
The second is to express clearly what you can offer to them, whether this is a working system, methodology, advice in a certain area or a new technique.
The third is be prepared that your investment possibly does not result in profits in the short term, but sustainable urban development is the future in China (also for anywhere else in the whole world) and the cooperation should aim at the long term.
Keep on doing what you believe!
Thank you, Xiaocun Ruan, for sharing your perspective on this topic!