Do cities belong to those who bring in more money or those who live there? I think the former. I want to illustrate this point with the example of my hometown city; Dalian, China.
Dalian is a coast city in northeast China. It is not very big but kind of developed comparing with most cities in China. Although the economy of Dalian is growing rapidly, it seems that it has little effect on people’s living standard. The wage level of Dalian is not very high, but the price level always stays ahead in China cities price level ranking list. Because of its beautiful coast sceneries and less-polluted environment, Dalian is orientated to be a tourist city. However, I do not think this can be the reason of low income and high consumption.
The high house prices in Dalian should be mentioned. The average wage is 3000 RMB/month, and the average house price is 6000 RMB/square meter. There are many people who come from Dalian who go out and work in some big cities in which they can earn more money and live better, such as Beijing and Shanghai, because they believe they cannot afford the high house rent in Dalian. At the same time, people that are from some smaller cities are trying to live in Dalian, so they come to Dalian and work there. They feel good to live in a relatively nice and developed city and earn more than in their hometown. Their emersion intensifies the reduction of wages, since bosses can give them lower wages than local workers and also make them happy. Thus I feel Dalian people don’t have the ‘right to the city’, because it is not them who can make decisions of the city’s development direction, but someone that have power or money such as the government and investors who set up companies in Dalian.
Moreover, I want to give another simple example. I’m not sure if you know the Summer Davos in China? It is a global economic forum. In the summer of years 2007, 2009, 2011, the Summer Davos is held in Dalian. There were people from the 500 top companies around world coming to Dalian. However, my example is not about Davos but the environment during the Davos period. We can easily find that when Davos is coming, the whole Dalian city will become much cleaner than ever. It makes people feel the clean environment is only made for people who will attend Davos, but not for the people who live in Dalian all their life. In addition, almost all of fairgrounds are forbidden as they are thought to damage the appearance of Dalian city. This makes some inconveniences to people’s living.
Generally speaking, I think the city belongs to the ones who bring in more money and the development of the city is also for them. People who live in a city do not really have a ‘right to the city’.
by Xue Wang