Asia's "Instant" Cities: Perfect Cities or Perfect Storm?

The "utopian" cities being built from scratch in Asia to accommodate its fantastic rate of urbanization are striving to be smarter and greener, but may also be financially risky.
November 28, 2011, 8am PST | Michael Dudley
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Greg Lindsay considers several of Asia's best known "cities-in-a-box" that have sprung up seemingly over night: Shenzhen, Cyberjaya and the eco-cities of Songdo, Mentougou and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City. Lindsay writes,

"Is it even possible to build a city from scratch, at least one we would want to live in? This may be the defining challenge of our era. The earth's urban population will nearly double by 2050, requiring the construction of hundreds of new cities. China is already building the equivalent of a Rome every few weeks to absorb the 400 million migrants streaming in from the countryside. The question facing us as an urban species isn't whether to build cities tabula rasa, but how. And nowhere is this dilemma more pressing than in Asia.

Whether out of greed, desire for prestige, or sheer necessity, instant-city builders of all stripes seem to believe new cities should conform to Moore's law: faster, better, cheaper. Just as this mentality produced the high-speed rail crash that has shaken China's faith in progress to its core, it has also produced a municipal debt bubble running into the trillions of dollars. Will the effort to build the perfect city produce the perfect economic storm instead?"

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Published on Monday, November 28, 2011 in Slate
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