chapter
16 Pages

Introduction KLAUS R . KUNZMANN , WILLY A . SCHMID AND

Information on China and its rapid economic development has grown explosively in recent years. Even before the wide coverage of the Olympic Games’ locations and projects, the popular press and visual media were full of reports about developments in China and about Chinese activities in Europe. In particular the spectacular development of architecture and cities in China has raised great interest far beyond that in architectural and planning journals. The popular and specialized business journals are full of features and reports about business development in China, about business opportunities and the huge Chinese market. Advertisements promote business services for enterprises intending to participate in Chinese economic growth or promise higher yields from capital investments in the Chinese financial market. Almost monthly new GermanChinese, French-Chinese or British-Chinese associations are established to accommodate the growing number of individuals and firms wishing to benefit from the huge market. Chinese communities all over Europe are growing. Chinese scientists are much welcomed at European universities and research institutions; and an increasing number of Chinese students, still admiring the image of European institutions of higher education or attracted by generous scholarships from national governments, such as the German government’s prestigious Merkel Fellowships, are enrolling in European universities. Even Chinese as a language is booming among European students, who wish to increase their chances in the slowly globalizing job market. Some kindergartens and primary schools have even introduced Chinese classes to meet a demand expressed by parents or growing Chinese communities in European cities. China has become a European passion. At the turn of the twenty-first century China is an economic global power. Favoured by globalization processes, new information and communication technologies and the logistic revolution, China’s economic growth is having an increasing impact on economic development elsewhere in the world, particularly in ‘old’ Europe. The economic repercussions can be felt and seen at many locations. European port cities (such as Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Naples) are handling growing numbers of containers from China and increasing numbers of containers return with sophisticated European products to supply Chinese industries and higher-income upscale consumers. European financial centres

(London, Frankfurt, Paris) are aware of the growing importance of China’s role in world finances. European engineers, architects and planners are greatly involved in ambitious Chinese projects. French luxury brands sell well on the Chinese market and French architects are among the winners of this internal European competition for contracts from influential city mayors, who wish to gain eternal fame from fancy urban monuments. European mayors and civic leaders forge twin-city arrangements with Chinese cities to prepare the ground for business co-operation. Local economic development agencies in Europe make great efforts to attract Chinese investment to the metropolitan region in order to participate in the economic success story of the Asian giant. Chinese modern art is experiencing impressive success on the global market. Chinese production complexes are also increasingly thriving in Italy, France, Spain and Romania and even in North Africa. And while Chinese students have discovered Europe as a place to learn, Chinese tourists travelling around Europe in five, seven or ten days, already outnumber Japanese travellers. All this has certainly slowed down as a consequence of the crisis in the global financial system. But it has not come to a standstill. European response to these changes wavers between cheering the new market opportunities and painting the Chinese peril on the wall, as indeed happened once in a while during the last century. But unless local conflicts are heating up local politics, as in Milan, Naples or Paris, metropolitan regions are either not yet aware of the Chinese challenges or regard them with much serenity. Although Chinese challenges to urban development in Europe may still be negligible, it makes sense for European metropolitan regions to think now about their likely urban implications. At present it is mainly Chinese low-cost production, both in China itself and in Chinese production clusters in ethnic enclaves in Europe which is alarming labour organizations. However, in the near future other questions will be crucial, such as: Will all of these European industries, now flourishing due to the insatiable Chinese market, continue to do so, or will they be challenged by high-quality Chinese products? Will all the profitable contracts, off which hi-tech industries, such as Airbus, Alsthom or Siemens currently live so comfortably, be phased out? Will the European motor-vehicle industry continue to benefit from exploding mobility in China or will China export cheaper eco-cars to Europe? Will technological advancement and design quality remain the most essential asset of European industries? Will Chinese higher education, research and development make the country fully competitive with European universities within less than a generation? These questions and the answers to them will have implications for economic development and employment in metropolitan regions in Europe, whether they be the locations of the car industry, or, whether they still benefit from local fashion, design or environmental technology clusters. And they will have consequences for employment and quality of life, and, in the end, even for the traditional European model of tamed, socially responsible capitalism. How should, how could metropolitan regions in Europe face such challenges? Should and can European cities prepare for Chinese investments? Should they

wait for social unrest in the rapidly polarizing China after the 2008 Olympics and the flagging of the Asian sandstorm? Or, should they rather strengthen their own local and regional economic circuits in order to become less and less dependent on the global division of labour? Such questions will be elaborated and explored in this compendium.