I was thinking of home when I first learned about supercities. What feels like home to you? Do you feel a certain civic pride? In this nebulous landscape of ever-shifting political boundaries, is home a state or a nation, or is a racial or a religious pride, or a regional one, based not on the lines we draw but on a shared natural or cultural beauty? Imagine if a group had the power to take your home and redefine it, to give it a new name, assess its worth and potential, and redesign its map, structure, and systems. In the long dance of history, this has happened many, many times, and it's happening again, now, in China.
The Chinese government recently announced their intention to move forward with a long-term urban development strategy they've been considering for years. The plan will foster the rise of enormous economic regions called supercities, anchored around large central urban cores like Hong Kong; Shanghai; or Beijing, and encompassing a number of surrounding, smaller cities. Kind of like a county, but WAY bigger than any county you've ever seen or heard of. By the year 2030, China's nineteen planned supercities will be connected by 26 high-speed train routes. There's a possibility that governance models would shift to mirror the supercities. Many urban planners and economists predict supercities could transform China into the wealthiest, most productive country in the world. To explore the context of a supercity, I interviewed Vivek Shandas, an urban studies and planning professor, fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions; and founder of the Sustainable Urban Places Research Lab.
“If our intent though is to create identities, cultural identities of people who share a common vision and share a common interest in seeing a place thrive in their own way…a supercity may be difficult. What would it mean for a community to maximize for happiness? What would it mean to really authentically think about people's self-identified state of wellbeing? That would include health, how well your physical body is, how well your mental body is, how well your spiritual body is, your community or family or whatever you identify with as your group, your kin — how intact is that? What if we were to think about happiness indexes that were about our human health and wellbeing, in the broad sense, and maximize towards that?"
You can hear our full conversation here.
Check out Vivek's work here.