Transition towards urban sustainability through socially integrative cities in the EU and in China


Cities are places of social innovation and engines of economic growth. They attract dynamic groups of society, they provide vast opportunities of inter-action, communication and exchange of knowledge, and they thereby lay the foundation for attracting large shares of R&D investment and an innovative service sector. Thus, social integration is directly linked with economic prosperity of cities. This is true for European and Chinese urban development but especially relevant for China as, promoted by various levels of governments, the country is transitioning from a less urban to a more urbanized society with increasingly intensified land use and higher quality of life.

One of the greatest challenges facing Chinese urbanisation is how to best design and turn cities into intelligent, socially integrative and sustainable environments. TRANS-URBAN-EU-CHINA addresses this key challenge. According to the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20120), China will “redouble” its “efforts to improve urban planning, development, and management” and to “improve living environments so that people can enjoy a more secure, relaxing, and satisfying city life”. The (Chinese) National New Urbanisation Plan (2014-2020) provides strong policy support for strategic decision-making and implementation of sustainable development approaches, aiming to be innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared. Good practices and methods from Europe in terms of social inclusiveness, cultural dynamics and economic viability have proven to be very significant to China, but Chinese cities need new insights to implement, scale up and transfer these practices in their own operational realities. This can also pro-duce positive learning effects on the European side, and will influence the European research agenda on sustainable urbanisation.

On this background, the key objective of TRANS-URBAN-EU-CHINA is to help policy makers, urban authorities, real estate developers, public service providers and citizens in China to create socially integrative cities in an environmentally friendly and financially viable way. Moreover, it will help urban stakeholders in Europe to reflect and eventually reconsider their approaches towards sustainable urbanisation. In order to achieve the main objective, the project will

  • Develop a systematic knowledge base on transition experiences in Europe and China in a comparative way, and make key results publicly available as a book addressing practitioners, the scientific community and students;
  • Advance tools and measures to support transition in cooperation with local stakeholders and citizens, and test them in two Living Labs located in Chinese cities with the purpose to derive operational and evidence-based knowledge about urban transformative capacity;
  • Elaborate related recommendations to support transition towards socially integrative cities, discuss them with representatives of 60  Reference Cities and a wider stakeholder community, and disseminate them through a variety of channels, including a web-based compendium of tested tools and measures adapted to local socio-economic, cultural and political specificities; the compendium will include policy briefs, guidelines, methods, and good practice examples for the development of socially integrative cities and for strengthening transformative capacities of local stakeholders.


The project focuses on: 

  1. community building and place-making in neighbourhoods;
  2. bridging the planning implementation gap in eco and smart cities; 
  3. land use planning and land management in new urban expansion and urban renewal areas, and 
  4. transition pathways to sustainable urban planning and governance. 


With 8 European and 6 Chinese expert organisations on socially integrative cities, TRANS-URBAN-EU-CHINA will combine the best of both worlds to create new insights, practices and role models in sustainable urban transitions in China. The Chinese team of partners from government agencies and academia will exert a direct impact on society through their national responsibilities for regional and urban planning, research and education. The European partners will play a similar role through their leading positions in European knowledge organisations. The External Advisory Board will secure a global reach. 2 Chinese Living Labs and 60 Reference Cities from Europe and China will ensure the solidity and the relevance of the outcomes. This combination of partners will provide a valuable contribution to an improved EU-China reciprocal knowledge on urbanisation processes.