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The future of urban development initiative

Read about the urban development challenges that Chinese cities Dalian and Zhangjiakou face and recommendations for a sustainable living in the future.


The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Urban Development Initiative has helped identify challenges and opportunities for the further urban development of two new champion cities of China—Dalian and Zhangjiakou.

The world’s population is moving toward urban locations at an unprecedented rate. This evolution is particularly striking in China—where more than 50 percent of the population lives in cities and more than 60 percent will do so by 2018. Urban expansion to this degree presents numerous challenges that need to be addressed holistically if cities are to remain livable, productive and sustainable.

The Future of Urban Development Initiative serves as a partner in the transformation of cities worldwide as they address significant urban challenges. It aims to make innovation accessible to city leaders and businesses in a mutually beneficial setting.

This WEF report, The Future of Urban Development Initiative: Dalian and Zhangjiakou Champion City Strategy, developed in collaboration with Accenture, identifies three main urbanization themes for the two champion Chinese cities. These include:

  • Transport planning and management.

  • Urban energy management.

  • Sustainable industry development.

The report also discusses in detail a champion city model, identifies six key issues and proposes 19 strategic recommendations with best practices case studies to guide these cities.


Urban Development in China
China’s urbanization rate brings a wealth of opportunities but also leads to great economic, social and environmental challenges.

  • More than 50 percent of China’s population lives in cities. The country has six megacities with more than 10 million people and 103 cities with a population of more than one million. The country will continue its massive urban expansion at an estimated speed of one percent each year.

  • During the past 30 years, China has reformed its economic system and experienced continuous double-digit growth, becoming the world’s second largest economy. Since 2012, the Chinese government began to refocus the next stage of its economic growth from ensuring speed to maximizing efficiency and productivity.

The Future of Urban Development Initiative
The Future of Urban Development Initiative has focused on equipping Chinese city leaders and relevant industry leaders with multistakeholder thinking as they strive to convert the challenges of rapid urbanization into opportunities for smart and sustainable growth.

In 2012, Tianjin was elected as the inaugural Chinese champion city for the Initiative. Following the initial collaboration with Tianjin, the Initiative decided to significantly scale up its activities in China by expanding to two additional champion cities, Dalian and Zhangjiakou.


  • The new champion cities, Dalian and Zhangjiakou, offer great opportunity to explore innovative solutions for urban problems and scale the knowledge to other cities.

  • Dalian, around 800 kilometers east of Beijing, is the most developed city in north-eastern China. It is on the pathway to becoming a more sustainable urban center.

  • Zhangjiakou, around 180 kilometers northwest of Beijing, will bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The city has the potential to completely transform itself from an old industrial town to a livable city with sizeable natural resources, integrated into the “Greater Beijing” area.

  • An urbanization issues framework has been identified to capture the detailed issues Dalian and Zhangjiakou face:

    • Three common urban issues to be addressed—transport planning and management, urban energy management, and sustainable industry development. These are in line with the National New-type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020).

    • For Dalian, the three key issues are:

      • Traffic congestion (road saturation).

      • Reliance on coal for energy supply.

      • Lost potential of an emerging technology sector.

    • For Zhangjiakou, the three key issues are:

      • Traffic congestion (intercity transport corridors to Beijing).

      • Integration of wind energy, locally and across regions.

      • Meeting sustainability goals for the Winter Olympics bid.


Urbanization Issues Framework for Dalian

  1. Transport planning and management

    • Limit urban expansion and reduce sprawl.

    • Enhance public transit systems.

    • Decrease car dependency.

  2. Urban energy management

    • Scale up the use of natural gas.

    • Foster solutions for the petrochemical sector.

    • Improve energy efficiency.

    • Explore the development of renewables, in particular offshore wind energy.

  3. Develop existing industries further, for example, petrochemical and equipment manufacturing.

    • Build an industrial value chain.

    • Promote service and high-value industries, for example, R&D, software and outsourcing.

Urbanization Issues Framework for Zhangjiakou

  1. Transport planning and management

    • Address intercity traffic congestion, mainly on expressways to Beijing.

    • Improve public transport development.

    • Address conflict between transport and land development.

    • Address intracity traffic congestion, mainly between the city center and two new urban clusters.

  2. Urban energy management

    • Increase power transmission capacities, particularly wind energy.

    • Optimize the use of power within the city, both efficiency and new sources of consumption avoiding waste.

  3. Sustainable industry development

    • Promote industry-induced local economic and social development.

    • Attract human capital.

    • Scale up emerging industries, such as manufacturing, premium food and agriculture, ecotourism and renewables.