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American Suburbia Transplanted to Beijing

Chinese and Indian cities have been quick to welcome housing developments modeled on North American suburbs, including "Orange County" and "Vancouver Forest" in Beijing. This globalized sprawl perpetuates all the ills of our own.
June 30, 2015, 8am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Gated, privatized, and roomy, China's take on Orange County looks nice, but doesn't bode well for urban sustainability. "The resemblance to an American suburb is uncanny. Of course, the water peddler pulling a tricycle down the street and the pollution is a reminder that alas, you are still in Beijing."

In addition to China's big centers, simulation American suburbs are becoming fashionable Indian cities like Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. Chinese builders are cashing in on the allure of western affluence "with suburban developments bearing names of exotic Western locales: Napa Valley, Yosemite, Vancouver Forest, Riviera. On the edge of Shanghai, a series of themed European towns have popped up, each in the style of a different European nation."

Although western nations are in no position to criticize, there are obvious long-term repercussions for urban equity, fair distribution of resources, and the environment. One fact Beijing should keep in mind: "a recent report from the New Climate Economy estimated that sprawl costs the United States up to $1 trillion per year, much of it in increased infrastructure costs that low-density communities require."

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Published on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 in The City Fix
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