China's Urban Revolution: Understanding Chinese Eco-Cities

Date: Friday 29 June 2018

Time: Doors open 6pm (for 6:15pm start) to 8pm

Venue: Carriageworks Theatre, Millennium Room

Speaker: Austin Williams

Critical Panel: University of Leeds' Giles Blackburne & Paul Waley 

£5 waged/£4 unwaged to pay on the door (cash only). To reserve a place, please e-mail us at

This is the first of two talks on China Leeds Salon will be hosting in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the 1949 Revolution. The second, next year, will look at China globally.

By 2025, China will have built fifteen new supercities each with 25 million inhabitants. It will have also created 250 Eco-cities': clean, green, car-free, people-friendly, high-tech urban centres. From the edge of an impending eco-catastrophe, we are arguably witnessing history’s greatest environmental turnaround - an urban experiment that may provide valuable lessons for cities worldwide.

Whether or not we choose to believe the hype there is little doubt that this is an experiment that needs unpicking, understanding, and learning from. In his new book, China’s Urban Revolution, Austin Williams explores the progress and perils of Chinas vast eco-city program, describing the complexities which emerge in the race to balance the environment with industrialisation, quality with quantity, and the liberty of the individual with the authority of the Chinese state.

Lifting the lid on the economic and social realities of the Chinese blueprint for eco-modernisation, Williams tells the story of Chinas rise, and reveals the pragmatic, political and economic motives that lurk behind the successes and failures of its eco-cities. Will these new kinds of urban developments be good, humane, healthy places? Can China find a third way in which humanity, nature, economic growth and sustainability are reconciled? And what lessons can we learn for our own vision of the urban future?

Austin will explore a range of themes - environmental, political, cultural and architectural - to show how the eco-city program sheds fascinating light on contemporary Chinese society, before facing questions and comments from our critical panel and audience.

Readings & Reviews:

China's Supernova Cities, James Woudhuysen, Spiked Review, December 2017

China's Urban Revolution: an interview with Austin Williams, Adam Mayer, China Urban Development, 8 June 2017

China's 'eco-cities': empty of hospitals, shopping centres and people, Jonathan Kaiman, Guardian, 14 April 2014

China's eco-cities: sustainable urban living in Tianjin, Gaia Vince, BBC, 3 May 2012  


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