Book cover: Towards Socially Integrative Cities
Open Access Edited Book

Towards Socially Integrative Cities

Perspectives on Urban Sustainability in Europe and China

Published: May 2021
Pages: 360
ISBN 978-3-03936-678-1 (hardback); ISBN 978-3-03936-679-8 (PDF)
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This book is based on the results of the TRANSURBAN-EU-CHINA project. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 770141. The material presented in this book reflects only the authors' views. It does not reflect the official opinion of the European Commission. The TRANS-URBAN-EU-CHINA project or the European Commission are not liable for the contents of the chapters or any use that may be made of the information contained therein.


The book Towards Socially Integrative Cities deals with the transition towards urban sustainability through socially integrative cities in Europe and China. It shares the impactful original research results of an EU-funded R&I project involving eight European and six Chinese partners (TRANS-URBAN-EU-CHINA; see Three each of the six editors come from European and Chinese universities and research institutions.

The first articles (No. 1–4) provide an overview and insights into the conceptual basis of the book. The socially integrative city is framed by discussions in academia and practice, and it is defined in a comprehensive way as an element of urban sustainability. Sustainability transitions in China are linked to international discussions and the challenges are articulated. Moreover, the discussions touch on the strengths and weaknesses related to managing urban growth and the rapid expansion of cities. Land development tools are discussed with regard to the opportunities they offer for creating socially integrative cities.

A second set of articles (No. 5–9) focus on socially integrative urban regeneration of cities. After an overview of policies and strategies in Europe and China, detailed aspects are discussed, such as community building through public engagement, challenges of place-making, and the role of education and life-long learning. Finally, a manuscript on heritage preservation and its impact on social integration in urban regeneration concludes this section.

A third set of articles (No. 10–13) look into issues of the transformation of cities and sustainability transitions. Transformation is understood as a complex set of interactions. The development of tools, such as community platforms for information and dialogue transfer, are discussed as an instrument to facilitate transition processes. The transformative capacity of cities in Europe and China is discussed in an article that looks into possibilities to narrow the gaps between urban planning and development. Smart and eco-cities in Europe and China are taken as an empirical base. Advanced methods, such as the Social Cost–Benefit Analysis, may support social integration. Finally, an example of how the use of multiple data sources can speed up the digital transition in cities and provide decision support for social integration is presented. 

The final set of articles (No. 14 and 15) deal with questions of replicability of experiences and the role of concrete urban experiments in so-called Urban Living Laboratories. Methods to explore the replication potential of urban solutions for socially integrative cities are discussed. Finally, the potential of urban living laboratories for nurturing open urban innovation in Chinese cities is scrutinized. Several examples are discussed, and conclusions regarding the enhancement of social integration in cities are drawn.    

The book is edited by Bernhard Müller (Technische Universität Dresden, TUD), Baojun Yang (China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, CAUPD), Liu Jian (Tsinghua University), Jianming Cai (China Academy of Sciences, CAS), Paulina Schiappacasse (TUD) and Hans-Martin Neumann (Austrian Institute of Technology, AIT).



  • Towards a Common Understanding of Socially Integrative Cities in Europe and China

    Urbanisation is recognised as a powerful force supporting economic growth and innovation. However, as more people have moved to cities in search of new opportunities, the scale of spatial, environmental, and socio-economic inequalities has increased, remaining more than ever an unmet common challenge. In Europe, many blackspots of urban decay have evolved in cities over the past decades. In China, cities have to deal with a number of specific challenges, especially those associated with the strict hukou (household registration) system, and with the massive land conversion stimulated by fiscal reforms of the past. In both parts of the world, new initiatives have been developed in order to deal with problems of segregation and exclusion. Although they di er considerably according to specific preconditions and their societal embeddedness, the objective of this article is to develop a common understanding of socially integrative cities in Europe and China. The work is mainly based on literature analysis, expert interviews, and intensive group discussions. First, the article looks at the relevance of the topic. Second, it traces approaches in Europe and China to promote socially integrative cities back to their origins, and it discusses certain challenges, especially with regard to China. Third, the results of expert meetings on developing a common understanding of socially integrative cities are presented. Five dimensions and twelve features are derived and explained. They are considered as an analytical concept and a general orientation for shaping policies towards promoting socially integrative cities. Finally, conclusions are drawn. The concept of the “socially integrative city” goes beyond the notion of the “inclusive city” as developed in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda. The five dimensions and twelve characteristics of the concept have a global reach. They can be applied anywhere, and they have the potential to complement the respective targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. The article is of interest for a broad group of stakeholders from academia and practice, e.g., experts in urban planning and community development, who are interested in contributing to make cities more sustainable, and especially to enhance social integration.

  • Managing Urban Expansion in Europe: New Impulses for People-Centred Development in China?

    The rapid growth in the urban population in China in recent decades has been paralleled by a massive expansion of urbanised land, promoted by policies oriented towards land development. On the contrary, in Europe, for at least three decades, there have been many e orts to manage urban expansion in a more sustainable way. Against this background, the article has two objectives: to review urban expansion in China and Europe, and to look at some European approaches oriented towards limiting urban expansion and promoting social integration. European experiences may be relevant and inspiring for shaping people-centred, i.e., socially integrative, urban expansion in China. Methodologically, the article is based on analyses of the literature and documents as well as on expert interviews, group discussions and site visits.

  • Land Management for Socially Integrative Cities in Europe

    The process of land development in urban renewal and urban expansion areas and its instruments in Europe is the topic of this chapter. Good practice examples from selected European countries are analysed regarding the implementation of land management instruments for promoting socially integrative cities. The results are based on qualitative research. The systematization of land management instruments is derived from a structured literature review. Good examples of land management instruments are analysed with regard to promoting social aspects. Municipalities can use the instruments to manage land use—e.g., for housing, technical and social infrastructure. The implementation of different instruments can influence the supply of the municipality with affordable housing and the realization of technical and social infrastructures. All selected countries use tailored instruments to reach their municipal goals. It becomes clear that negotiation processes are a well-established approach for stakeholders to participate in the development process.

  • Towards Socially Integrative Urban  Regeneration—Comparative Perspectives from China and Europe

    The article focuses on the current framework, challenges and experiences of socially integrative urban regeneration in China and Europe. Urban regeneration plays a crucial role in achieving sustainable urban development in both China and Europe. To understand the specific challenges as well as potentials of this urban development strategy, we consider the different pathways, origins and practices in these two contexts need to be considered. This includes a comparative view of terms and definitions used in the debate and practice of urban regeneration. By examining the individual drivers, it is possible to determine the framework for urban regeneration in Europe and China. Drawing on the concept of socially integrative urban development, the challenges of urban regeneration in China and the experiences in Europe will be described and summarized.

  • Community Building through Public Engagement: Variety in Europe and China

    Public participation in the regeneration of neighborhoods has increasingly become a key objective in public planning. However, the extent to which such processes are anchored in the community varies greatly. To ensure inclusive community building, one must pay close attention to the groups of actors involved in the processes. This chapter investigates different examples of community building in Europe and China, focusing on who is participating. A variety of cases show the importance of a deep-rooted process analyzed through a modified participation ladder, and classification of bottom-up and top-down initiatives. The role of formal procedures and regulations of participation are also examined, particularly with respect to China. When superficial forms of participation are utilized, the processes can run the risk of merely legitimize top-down plans. On this basis, we argue that a wide variety of actors should be involved early in the process to ensure that residents also have a say in the definition of the issues at hand, and also the methods and tools used for participation.

  • Transformative Factors of Post-Industrial Urban Spaces in China and Italy

    Both Chinese and Italian cities have faced significant transformations in the post-industrial era, in particular the path towards more socially integrative urban spaces in the face of social, political and economic transitions. Based on a literature review and selected case studies from China and Italy, this article attempts to shed light on the processes and dynamics of the redevelopment of their urban spaces in light of the transition to a post-industrial period. A shift in the economic and political apparatus is always associated with challenges and opportunities, as well as with social and spatial impacts, which can sometimes result in irreversible damage or successful development experiences. Although using different approaches and strategies to face the different constraints in the transitional period, particularly the rising land value, what emerged from both the Chinese and the Italian experience is an alternative sensitivity towards the protection and reuse of the pre-existing industrial urban fabric, an approach mostly based on reducing the practices of demolition and total replacement, and increasing focus on the engagement of local communities as an integral part of the decision-making process. In spite of the e ort to produce qualitative urban spaces oriented to balance the physical and social transformations, achieving socially integrative cities is still a challenge in both urban contexts.

  • Looking at Socially Integrative Cities through the Educating City: The Example of Educational Museums in Europe and China

    This contribution aims to show how the idea of an educating city can help to find effective ways of social integration capable of promoting the well-being of individuals and the community. In this direction, the concept of an educating city is adopted as a key to re-read the concept of a socially integrative city through an eminently educational perspective. The education channel, rethought through multiple learning initiatives capable of following alternative paths to those of school and university experiences (formal education), allows enhancing the human potential and wealth of knowledge and skills of the city, making all citizens protagonists and participants. In addressing this issue, a specific case study will be analyzed: educational museums. The aim is to show how the museum, as a non-formal education space and an expression of collective identity, can play an important role in connoting a city as an educating city. Specifically, both the European and Chinese realities will be examined to offer one of the possible insights into how the city is a reality in progress to be explored, which can grow and improve together with its citizens if you work in the direction of community education (Dewey) by rediscovering a place that, like museums, can contribute to enrich the social capital of a community.

  • The Role of Heritage in Building a Socially Integrative City: A Comparative Approach

    This article aims to contribute to answering the research question of how to create socially integrative cities during the fast urban transition that has been adopted by H2020 TRANS-URBAN-EU-CHINA. The article is specifically focused on the critical role of community in urban transition in historical districts and uncovers the kind of role the community can play in such a process. The article compares two cases: the gentrification process since the 1970s in the Bakklandet district in Trondheim Norway and, in the Xi’an Beiyuanmen Muslim district, the urban regeneration plan in the 2000s in Xi’an China. The transformation in Bakklandet and in the Xi’an Muslim district has showcased that community plays an important role and that community building in urban transition is a key element for preserving the value of historical districts (neighborhoods).

  • Embracing Complexity Theory for Effective Transition to Socially Integrative Cities

    This article offers complexity theory as a theoretical framework for a transition into socially integrative cities enabled by digitalization. To increase our understanding of the change processes in cities, we can look to the natural sciences for inspiration–specifically, to complexity theory. According to this theory, the city is a living organism, an ecosystem in which there are close relationships among streams of resources, knowledge, and people. It is a system in which, as in nature, a phenomenon of co-evolution occurs–the emergence of processes and self-organization of all agents in the system–that provides the creation of a new order in a natural evolutionary process. The community is one of the key success factors to make cities more attractive to residents, business, and tourists. Community building needs enabling infrastructure for its creation and development. The city can function as a hub for community-building and, in this way, encourage and enable the natural self-emergence of the residents into different communities of interest. Digital technology makes it possible to develop communities on-line in addition to community-building off-line. The process described in this article includes the conceptual framework that is based on complexity theory and the methodological concept based on Urban Living Labs. In addition, we conducted different types of experiments as part of the empirical action study to validate the theoretical basis of the complexity theory. The experiments include a variety of online activities and a few face-to-face activities. The combination of both online and offine support motivates stakeholders to participate and collaborate in, and register on, the platform. Inspired by complexity theory, we believe that urban planners and policy makers should explore the principles identified in the research of complex adaptive systems, such as emergence, self-organization, co-evolution and their translation into R&D projects as user-centered design (UCD), which inspired us in our development of the online Community of Communities (CoC). We believe that one cannot plan a new city or a new neighborhood or any urban renewal activities without engaging all current and future stakeholders: planners, policy makers, academia, residents, businesses and even tourists. This was our focus too, as described in this chapter. In addition, Tel Aviv’s case study is presented as an example of a process of building an online platform, Community of Communities, that can contribute to the transition towards digital city.

  • Enhancing Capacity Building for Urban Transformation as a Means to Close the Planning–Implementation Gap in Europe and China

    Building socially integrative cities is high on the European Agenda, and it has also become one of the top priorities of the Chinese government’s commitment to fostering sustainable urbanisation and the development of smart cities. However, there is a gap between these aspirations, reflected in strategic documents and urban plans, and the actual realisation of these aspirations in practice. Against this background, this research explores and illustrates innovative approaches in European and Chinese smart city projects that have contributed to a better alignment of city planning and implementation. In doing so, the paper draws on the transformative capacity concepts and operationalises them for the city planning and implementation context. Equipped with this framework, the research showcases a selection of the most innovative approaches that European and Chinese smart city projects have successfully employed. Furthermore, the paper analyses the dimensions in which these approaches have helped to build capacities that can foster urban transformation. Based on the analysis, the paper reflects on further research that is needed to systematically understand innovative approaches and tools to learn to replicate in other cities, and the paper outlines policy recommendations to foster transformative capacities in cities.

  • Social Cost–Benefit Analysis—Supporting Urban Planning and Governance for Enhancing Social Integration

    The ultimate objective in applying social cost–benefit analysis (SCBA) techniques is the monetary valuation of impacts, such as air pollution, loss of amenities, congestion (urban sprawl), damage to public health, ecosystems services and quality of life, for which market prices may not be available. All these fields of application are relevant to the topic of building socially integrative cities. They contribute, directly or indirectly, through the quantification of impacts and the understanding of causal factors, to the urban environment and quality of life, which are the cornerstones of socially integrative cities. Quantification through SCBA techniques better reflects the value society attaches to non-market goods and services, enabling urban planners and policymakers to consider the net social welfare effects of urbanisation processes. For example, land use effciency may be improved if the costs of using natural resources and polluting the environment are taken into account.

  • Regression Analyses of Air Pollution and Transport Based on Multiple Data Sources—A Decision Support Example for Socially Integrative City Planning

    In this chapter, we present a study on the inter-relationships between air pollution, transportation, industries, and social activities in a city based on multiple data sources for Tianjin. Tianjin, as one of the locations with Chinese urban living labs (living laboratories (or living labs) are spaces for co-innovation through participatory, transdisciplinary and systemic research), was selected by the TRANS URBAN EU-CHINA project as a representative city because of its size, its industries, and its importance as a main traffic node in order to verify the project results in practice. This chapter describes a top-down approach for the analysis of air pollution where multiple impact factors are taken into account. The insights gained provide evidence for decision-making to facilitate sustainable development with respect to air pollution, which is a valuable goal in order to create more socially integrative cities, as it impacts greatly on the health and well-being of the people in affected parts of the city. The models and analyses identify some important factors impacting the air quality in Tianjin. Furthermore, a cost model for air pollution reduction provides insight into causal factors that should be taken into account while making decisions to lower air pollutants. The models may be beneficial for cities in China and elsewhere and are a contribution to evidence-based urban planning for socially integrative cities.

  • Estimating the Replication Potential of Urban Solutions for Socially Integrative Cities

    In the previous chapters, the topic of sustainable transition toward socially integrative and sustainable cities was widely discussed and several tools and advanced methods were introduced as useful instruments to facilitate this process. All these tools are valid aids for urban planners and decision-makers in implementing specific urban solutions. Often, however, the fact that a solution is successful in a given context does not imply that it can be easily replicated in other situations and bring the same benefits. Notably, successful urban solutions in Europe, could face various difficulties when implemented in the Chinese context. Thus, a thorough analysis of the replication potential is required for the selection of the most appropriate solutions for any given city. This article illustrates a new methodology for the estimation of the replication potential of urban solutions in different contexts to support successful transition toward socially integrative cities. The novelty of this method is in the combination of quantitative data with qualitative information collected from local stakeholders, and in the assessment of five specific dimensions: socio-cultural, institutional, technological, environmental and economic (SITEE replicability method). This multi-dimensional analysis allows us to best describe and understand the complexity of the different cities’ ecosystems, helping to identify the most relevant factors that may limit or facilitate replication. Cities are thus guided in the selection of those urban solutions that could be best replicated in their local context, and are widely supported in the urban planning phase and in the provision of more socially integrative initiatives. The application of SITEE to the Chinese context might have interesting implications. China’s city-tier classification system can be adapted to SITEE so as to broaden and maximize the results and the impacts that can be obtained for one city, leading to the identification of a group of solutions that can be applied all the cities belonging to the same tier.

  • Urban Living Labs as Instruments of Open Innovation: Examples of Sino–European Cooperation

    This chapter analyses how Urban Living Labs may be used as instruments of open innovation. The analysis is based on on-the-ground experiences with Urban Living Labs in China (in the cities of Wuhan, Tianjin and Jingdezhen), in close contact with local stakeholders and European and Chinese experts. These experiences were paired with desk research, local stakeholder workshops and Sino-European expert workshops, in order to better understand the challenges that were identified in the Urban Living Labs, and to explore pathways towards addressing these challenges. Based on these methods, open innovation-based principles are discussed for Urban Living Labs to function as meeting arenas to support communities’ diversity, significance and connectedness, where participants can experiment with practical ideas and solutions towards more a cohesive, inclusive and sustainable every-day life.

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