Monday, December 18, 2006

Progress in China

The middle class in the Middle Kingdom is starting to flex its muscles.
When residents here in southern mainland China's richest city learned of plans to build an expressway that would cut through the heart of their congested, middle-class neighborhood, they immediately organized a campaign to fight city hall.

Over the next two years they managed to halt work on the most destructive and problematic segment of the highway and to force design changes to reduce pollution from the roadway. Their actions became a landmark in citizen efforts to win concessions from a government that by tradition brooked no opposition.

And it was no accident that the battle was waged in Shenzhen, a 26- year-old boomtown that was the first city to enjoy the effects of China's explosive economic growth and that has served as a model for cities throughout the country.
It's exactly these kinds of groups that herald the beginnings of real, organic change in China. Grand principles to defend are nice too, but NIMBYism is what builds movements. Look at the effect Jane Jacobs had in Toronto for one example.

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