A New Urban Role for China’s Evolving Shopping Malls

As the structure of China’s urban shopping malls evolves into large-scale, multi-use “lifestyle complexes”, so too does their role in the social and cultural fabric of metropolitan society.

January 24, 2013, 1:00 PM PST

By Melina Cordero

New shopping malls in nearly all of China’s first- and second-tier cities are developing a new identity as “lifestyle complexes,” offering not only retail and leisure opportunities, but a long list of services from childcare and hotels to art and educational venues, Gan Tian reports. 

Competition from e-commerce, the author finds, has been a major factor in the diversification of these traditionally retail-focused complexes. As online shopping threatens traditional store-based retail channels across the globe, mall developers are looking for innovative ways to attract shoppers.

Already, these new urban “landmarks” are finding appeal across ages, occupations, and income groups. Alongside the allure of affordable cinema tickets and climate control, Tian finds a number of mall-goers for whom the center is an integral site – and source – of sociability. 

From 28-year-old Xie Hong who eats brunch at Beijing’s Sanlitun Village every weekend with her friends because it reminds her of “Sex and the City” to retired worker Sun Jianguo who dislikes shopping malls but frequents the center to take walks with his wife, China’s new retail-leisure complexes offer a convenient space for social interaction. For others, the author finds, the mall is a primary source of social life. Tian encounters one mother who regularly brings her daughter to the Sanlitun Village because she has few other opportunities to play and interact with other children. “Under the family planning policy,” Tian argues, “most children do not have many playmates like before when children had brothers and sisters as companions.” In addition, he explains, the constricted spaces of high-rise apartment living offers little space to play at home.

Tian concludes that the new face of China’s shopping malls is engendering an important lifestyle shift among urban dwellers. “They are no longer just a place for shopping,” Tian writes. “They are turning into lifestyle complexes, where different people can meet their every need, almost.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013 in China Daily

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

LAX Cars

Car Noise Is Killing Us

It’s not just traffic collisions that kill—a new study from researcher at Rutgers finds that the loud noises emanating from cars has direct impact on heart health in Americans.

May 6, 2022 - Streetsblog USA

A pair of crash test dummies in a car after a crash with air bags deployed.

Acceptable Deaths

What can we learn from our Covid response?

May 5, 2022 - Angie Schmitt

Cottages on Western Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

Redevelopment Threatens Iconic, Affordable Chicago Homes

The ‘workers’ cottages’ are being replaced with larger, more expensive homes, threatening one of the city’s original forms of affordable housing.

58 minutes ago - WTTW

Washington, D.C.

Six-Story Parking Lot Nixed From D.C. Union Station Renovation Plans

The Federal Railroad Administration has removed a six-story parking facility included in a 2020 draft Environmental Impact Statement for a $10 billion renovation of Union Station in Washington, D.C.

1 hour ago - The Washington Post

New Jersey

Newark Working to Stem the Tide of Wall Street Investors in the Residential Market

A new study by researchers at Rutgers University reveals the scale of Wall Street’s reach into the Newark, New Jersey, housing market—LLCs and private equity accounted for 47 percent of residential real estate transactions from 2017 to early 2020.

2 hours ago - The Star-Ledger

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.