chapter  7
13 Pages

What will become of European regions? Driving forces, emerging mega- city regions, options

WithALAIN THIERSTEIN

Introduction It is no easy task to consider what will become of European regions at the backdrop of the ascent of China as an economic, cultural, technological or maybe even a political force. One has to look at underlying driving forces, especially their emanation as emerging mega-city regions. Even more ambitious, it would seem, is the business of developing options for policy-making in Europe, especially for the European Commission and its informal policy guidelines for urban and regional development. At that point, one has to be fully aware of the fact that there are numerous disciplinary angles to look at in the overarching topic of this book: China and Europe. As an economist, planner and consultant, I prefer to first look at the underlying functional drivers that eventually shape and influence spatial structures and institutional behaviour, forces that, of course, in turn influence directions and impact of these same development drivers. One promising and valuable way to proceed and gather necessary insights is to review what scholars and knowledgeable observers of the Chinese dynamics in spatial development have come up with, and then draw analogies or conclusions for the European situation. Thus, some observers of Chinese urban development in the mid-1990s already pointed out that Shanghai stands at the interface of the world economy and the Chinese nation state as other regional and global cities have done in the past. Shanghai, and other large cities, are bound to make possible an evolution from the city’s dominant role of gateway and manufacturing centre towards one in which the tertiary sector has a greater weight. This statement assumes that Chinese cities and city regions will follow a certain trajectory of economic structural change that in its most advanced features are visible in the development of European and New World cities today. In return, such a perspective would signify that by knowing how urban structure in Europe will evolve quasi-automatically, of course with a time lag, Chinese cities would follow suit. Such a simplifying assumption fundamentally ignores the importance of socio-cultural forces that in Europe over the centuries have given way to a unique urban model of the European core city.