Paul French
Paul French

Fast urbanization often leads to stressful lives, of people living on the edge. But it can be different, author Paul French discovered at he visited Yichang, Hubei province. A relaxed urbanization in a city of 6.5 million, described in the China Economic Review.

Paul French:

Yichang appears to me to have a nice mix of green and industry as well as old and new. Perhaps it’s not a perfect case study or about to get into Monocle’s infamous list of the world’s “most liveable” cities just yet, but it seems to be getting something right.

I pondered this question of livability with some Chinese bankers while in Yichang. One of them raised the interesting idea that a big problem in Chinese cities is a lack of relaxation-related facilities for most people. He bemoaned that while leisure giants like Disney were actively courted by Chinese cities, everyday leisure facilities providers – private sports centers, smaller scale attractions, etc – could never get funding from the banking system as it is presently structured. Consequently they either don’t happen, or they get built and are underfunded, disappointing and go broke pretty fast.

Another Yichang contact believed that the problem lay more with people not being sure what to do with leisure time, outside of going on full-blown holidays. There simply aren’t enough outlets to let people develop hobbies.

This does seem to be a problem. A friend who works for a major photography equipment brand tried to start up a camera club a while ago – to encourage people to take pictures, join communities of camera enthusiasts, take better pictures and buy more expensive kits.

But trying to get such a club started proved impossible legally, and in the end he dropped the idea. China has legions of amateur photographers, desperate to enjoy their hobby and sometimes coming together online or in small informal groups, but rarely in organized clubs.

All of these problems are going to become more acute. China’s aging population is a big theme now with China pontificators. In Yichang, the range of new providers of services for the old, from care homes to at-home help, was astonishing.

More in the China Economic Review.

Paul French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

China Weekly Hangout

The upcoming cyber war is the subject of next week’s +China Weekly Hangout . The revelations by Edward Snowden showed that the US is preparing a military shake-out, as both China, Russia and other countries are building up their cyber war capacities too. Joining us are former security consultant +Mathew Hoover and media en communication lecturer +Paul Fox of the Hong Kong University. Moderation by +Fons Tuinstra, president of the China Speakers Bureau.
You can read our announcement here, or register right away for participation at our event page.

Last month the China Weekly Hangout discussed the fast changing labor force in China with Dee Lee, of the NGO Inno in Guangzhou, who is running a workers’ hotline, mainly funded by big brands who want to keep an eye on working conditions. Heleen Mees, NYU professor in New York, Sam Xu and Fons Tuinstra, of the China Speakers Bureau, ask him questions.


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