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The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What it Means for the World [Kindle Edition]

Thomas J. Campanella
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

China is the most rapidly urbanizing nation in the world, with an urban population that may well reach one billion within a generation. Over the past 25 years, surging economic growth has propelled a construction boom unlike anything the world has ever seen, radically transforming both city and countryside in its wake. The speed and scale of China's urban revolution challenges nearly all our expectations about architecture, urbanism and city planning. China's ambition to be a major player on the global stage is written on the skylines of every major city. This is a nation on the rise, and it is building for the record books.

China is now home to some of the world's tallest skyscrapers and biggest shopping malls; the longest bridges and largest airport; the most expansive theme parks and gated communities and even the world's largest skateboard park. And by 2020 China's national network of expressways will exceed in length even the American interstate highway system. China's construction industry, employing a workforce equal to the population of California, has been erecting billions of square feet of housing and office space every year. But such extensive development has also meant demolition on a scale unprecedented in the peacetime history of the world. Nearly all of Beijing's centuries-old cityscape has been bulldozed in recent years, and redevelopment in Shanghai has displaced more families than 30 years of urban renewal in the United States. China's cities are also rapidly sprawling across the landscape, churning precious farmland into a landscape of superblock housing estates and single-family subdivisions laced with highways and big-box malls. In a mere generation, China's cities have undergone a metamorphosis that took 150 years to complete in the United States.

The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What it Means for the World sheds light on this extraordinary chapter in world urban history. The book surveys the driving forces behind the great Chinese building boom, traces the historical precedents and global flows of ideas and information that are fusing to create a bold new Chinese cityscape, and considers the social and environmental impacts of China's urban future. The Concrete Dragon provides a critical overview of contemporary Chinese urbanization in light of both China's past as well as earlier episodes of rapid urban development elsewhere in the world--especially that of the United States, a nation that itself once set global records for the speed and scale of its urban ambitions.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Urban planning professor Campanella (of the University of North Carolina and Harvard's Graduate School of Design) presents an overview of today's China, which has recently grown so fast and so lavishly that its scope is hard to comprehend. The geography is vast, and so are statistics that now define it. With a huge rural-to-urban migration over the last quarter century, dozens of megacities-"the primary spatial forms of the new global economy"-have cropped up over natural and man-made obstacles, boasting a culture of skyscraper one-upsmanship, a passionate embrace of foreign architecture and sports (golf, skateboarding), a legion of theme parks featuring scale models of Chinese and world-famous landscapes (like the U.S. Capitol Building), and the relentless reinvention of ancient metropolises. Politics, capitalism, epic road-building, spiraling bridges and, now, pre-Olympic commotion mix with surprising effects; once-ubiquitous bicycles are replaced by automobiles; everywhere there is domicide, the destruction of long-time residences; and traditional Chinese culture in decline: "Even as Beijing erects singular architectural monuments to create a definitive identity for itself, it has largely rubbed out... what gave the city such unique color, richness, and character." A fascinating read, this current-events primer could very well be a crash course in the world's future.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


The Concrete Dragon provides a critical overview of contemporary Chinese urbanization in light of both China's past as well as earlier episodes of rapid urban development elsewhere in the world especially that of the United States, a nation that itself once set global records for the speed and scale of its urban ambitions. -- Places Journal, May 2008

If you want to better understand the role China will play in the future, you might want to start with The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What It Means for the World by Thomas J. Campanella. --, July 30, 2008

Just in time for the Beijing Olympics, Thomas J. Campanella tackels what he calles 'the greatest building boom in human history': the creation of whole new cities throughout China, where superhighways, theme parks, and engineering projects light up the night sky. Campanella is an able guide to the dusty haze of China's ever-growing construction sites. -- Dwell, August 1, 2008

One of the most attention-grabbing and thought-provoking books on China I have read in a long time. -- David Frum's National Review, May 11, 2008

a powerful overview of China's huge building boom and its social and environmental consequences. -- The Washington Post, June 22, 2008

Product Details

  • File Size: 2911 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; Reprint edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007N1ROJE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,723 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Concrete Dragon October 22, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My husband and I just returned from a comprehensive three week tour in China and Tibet. This book prepared us very well for all the amazing extremes which China has gone to in order to begin to fulfill their desire to have their country have the biggest and the best of overall city development, housing for growing masses of people moving into the cities, traffic control, beautiful urban architecture and landscaping, and the necessary river flood control. The book was written just before the Olympics and the completion of the Three Gorges Dam but covers very well all the planning, relocation of millions of people and financial expenditures needed to recreate practically new, huge cities which we have previously only known of from the history books as well as the Dam. The authors give many statistics which are accurate for 2008 and indicate the expected growth for the future. Enough annecdotal bits are included to make it all flow well and be interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great in-depth view into China August 9, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book comprehensively went into a very broad issue- the transformation of China and provided a very good view of Chinese culture, from the way it has changed since Mao Zedong to the present. Issues such as urban planning policies and problems were addressed from a perspective I couldn't find in other books. For example, it went into depth about the destruction of Beijing's walls as one of the greatest acts of urban vandalism in history. It also provided a good comparative view of the changes occurring in China as strongly resembling those in the U.S.
It's written simply and engages the reader well. I strongly recommend it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Urban showcase March 20, 2009
This is an excellent overview of recent urban development in China. It doesn't go far beyond description, however an excellent description, and a very pleasant read. Good documentation. Photographs are not very good, and the few maps are rather poor.
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