Urban China Initiative

Columbia Global Centers | Beijing


China’s urbanization over the last twenty years has been a success. Since 1990, China’s cities have grown by 380 million people, while per capita urban GDP has grown five times. China’s leaders have recently called for a structural adjustment to China’s growth model. This adjustment is needed if China’s cities are to surmount two intertwined challenges: the scale of China’s urbanization, and with it the pressures of social change and resources; and the need to meet the rising aspirations of China’s citizens. While there is no shortage of technologies and initiatives available for tackling these challenges, there is a significant gap between knowing what is needed and knowing how to implement the solutions. Hence, to support the structure adjustment in Chinese cities, we proposed the establishment of a public-private think tank, the Urban China Initiative.


About Urban China Initiative

As a new joint initiative whose research is led by three major founding institutions: Columbia Global Centers | East Asia, Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management, and McKinsey & Company, Urban China Initiative has begun with the aim of establishing a think-tank designed to find and implement effective solutions to China’s urbanization challenge. To fulfill its mission, the UCI has four specific aims:

  • Solutions - Be the source of the best and most innovative solutions to urban development issues in China.
  • Talent - Be a home for China’s leading domestic and international urban thinkers and professionals, and a magnet for the best global thinkers
  • Dialogue - Be the convener of China’s leading national, provincial and local dialogues on urban issues
  • Pilots - Support China's urban leaders in establishing pilots based on the Initiative's research and dialogues

By combining these aims, the Initiative will also pursue knowledge initiatives with the goal of developing solutions that can be applied across hundreds of cities in China.


Flagship Research Projects

Urban Citizenship of Chinese Migrants: Aims to take stock of the central and local governments’ experiments of helping migrants better integrate into cities, and provide inputs to relevant policy makings.

Research on Mega regions: Makes a comprehensive review on the forming and evolving of mega regions, and sums up the major challenges and solutions of a series of classic mega region cases in the world.

Urban Sustainability Index (USI): the first-ever index providing a fact-based methodology for measuring and comparing China’s cities in their individual efforts to achieve sustainable development. UCI launched China’s first Urban Sustainability Index (USI) in November 2011, and launched the new edition of USI in April 2012.

Urban Indicator System: To build a comprehensive indicators system to assess the pace and quality of China’s urbanization.

Grants: To encourage researchers and practitioners pursuing the topic of sustainable urbanization, UCI accepts research applications on a bi-annual basis for grants up to RMB 100,000. UCI awarded 8 grants in 2011, and 5 grants in 2012. The next call for research will be in late 2012.


Major Events

UCI Annual Forum: Since launch in 2011, the UCI Annual Forum has provided a platform for urban thinkers at home and abroad to engage in dialogues on China’s urbanization issues. Its first annual forum was held in October 2011 in Beijing, and its second forum titled "China’s Urban New Era" brought together more than 400 people in September 2012.

Urban Leaders Roundtable Series: A quarterly roundtable discussion Involving 20 urban policy makers and experts in a range of dialogues focused on pressing urban issues in China.



The Initiative maintains strategic partnerships with the following institutions and corporations:

  • China Development Bank Capital
  • Rio Tinto
  • BMW China
  • China City Development Academy
  • China Society for Urban Studies
  • New Cities Foundation
  • National Academy for Mayors of China
  • Delegation of the European Union to China


For more information: http://www.urbanchinainitiative.org/


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