Sustainable development challenges in suburban and rural China in the framework of economic transition: Learning and inspiration from best practices in France

Danhua Xu, Zhu Wang

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionProfessional


    Since reform and opening up, China has adopted the market economy model, leading to the rapid development of the city. The cities create diversity in job opportunities, attracting in large scale a rural exodus to the city, giving rise to the shaping of the complex urban-rural dual structure. The suburban villages also began to profit from industrialization and got out of poverty. However, influenced by the global financial crisis in 2008, these rural economies are facing bankruptcy due to the dynamic market demands. Unfortunately, while blindly pursuing the growth in extensive economy, the villages are suffering from pollution, contributing to the aggravation of conditions of human settlements.
    Bimen village, located in Anji County, China's top ten bamboo townships, is a typical suburban village confronted with these problems. Relying on the rich bamboo resources, the village developed bamboo processing industry 25 years ago and improved the local standard of living. Recently, however, due to higher labor costs, the single structure, the smaller market for the low value-added bamboo production producing for example brooms and chopsticks, the bamboo industry of Bimen began to decline and many family workshops closed down.
    Since China tries to enter into a new period of urban-rural integration, the goal of this contribution is to learn from representative examples that have been developed during the last decades particularly in France. As a large agricultural country among the developed economies, France experienced a unique process of urbanization and industrialization, being confronted also with a rural development crisis. In addition, France also owns a relatively centralized central government tradition and the top-down government intervention has played a positive role in rejuvenating the rurality.
    The specific policy and case studies in France will help to understand how the rural areas can develop new economy to achieve revitalization by relying on their own characteristics and advantages. For instance, Ungersheim in north-eastern France has been in effective transition from the mining decline into sustainability with the help local authority and community. Insights in these examples will be an inspiration for Bimen village and other villages in China. In recent years, due to the increasing number of middle-class citizens and changes in their lifestyle, rural tourism is on a rise. Bimen Village has a new potential to renew thanks to the combination of its geographical advantages, tourism and the economic resources around it. On the one hand, the aim is developing the new economy by linking with industry both in the bamboo industrial transition and the agricultural upgrade. On the other hand, in the spatial planning the challenge will be keeping the main rural characteristics, getting fully equipped with essential infrastructures and public space and then encourage public to participate in a community-supported mode.
    Practical applications of how to deal with economic transition while preserving rural characteristic and activating public participation will be examined from cases of the ‘French village renaissance’. Analysis and reflection on these best practices will inspire and help setting up an agenda for sustainable economic, spatial and social developments for Chinese rural renewal, especially in the suburban areas.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEconomic Transitions & New Ruralities
    Subtitle of host publicationAlterrurality: meets Rural space & spatial design
    EditorsX. Guillot
    Number of pages13
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Mar 2017
    EventAlterrurality: meets Rural space & spatial design - Sabres, Bordeaux, France
    Duration: 10 May 201712 May 2017
    Conference number: 4


    Abbreviated titleEconomic transitions and new ruralities
    Internet address


    • Chinese suburban villages
    • economic transition
    • multifunctionality
    • design strategy
    • sustainability
    • linkage culture,
    • agriculture and industry


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