Cities are as much a product of our choices as the diversity of our choices are a product of urbanity. Drawing from his vast experience with city-making and urban policy across the globe, Jonathan Woetzel talks about differences in Chinese and Western concepts of the city, and between China's celebration of urbanism as opportunity versus the challenge narrative that seems dominant in the West.
Drawing parallels between the concepts of solitude and stillness/non-action in Daoism and Thoreau, and interaction and purposeful action in Confucianism and Calvinism, Dr Woetzel casts a philosophical lens on how cities incorporate choices to create a lexicon for urbanism in the East and the West, a lexicon which seeks greater clarity around commonly abused terms such as sustainability, opportunity and equity. Whether we are speaking of notions of density and degrees of interaction, how responsively land use regimes evolve, to what extent we integrate nature and various adaptive mechanisms and so forth, our choices reflect what we value. These are in turn influenced by a larger set of forces, and varied contexts of hierarchy and structure that may either allow a potential to act collectively in an organised manner or individually out of contractual relationships, with each offering its own distinct set of rewards and vulnerabilities. While the resulting manifestations of all endeavours may appear different, in essence the goal is the same – which is, put simply, to have the best possible life. How do Chinese cities and city governments embody this differently from the West and what does this mean for the future? How do they/can they prioritise resilience so that they bend and not break with what the future holds?
About the speaker:
Dr. Jonathan Woetzel is Senior Partner in McKinsey's Shanghai office and Asia Director of the McKinsey Global Institute. He leads McKinsey's Cities Special Initiative and is co-chair of the Urban China Initiative, a think tank devoted to transforming China's urban future. In addition to his work advising domestic Chinese and multinational businesses on their strategic issues, he also advises national governments and local government authorities in Asia to support local economic development and transformation. Jonathan has led numerous research efforts on global economic trends, including growth and productivity, urbanization, affordable housing, energy and sustainability, e-commerce, and the economic impact of the Internet, as well as on productivity growth and economic development in China and Asia. He is a lecturer at Beijing University's Guanghua School of Management and the China-Europe International Business School (CEIBS), and an honorary lecturer at Jiaotong University's Antai Business School. He is co-author of The One Hour China Consumer Book (2015) and The One Hour China Book (2014), co-author of Operation China: From Strategy to Execution (2007) and the author of Capitalist China: Strategies for a Revolutionized Economy (2003). Dr. Woetzel holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Southern California.
Convenor: Parul Rewal, Architect and Urbanist