Beijing is now orchestrating an industrial revolution, hoping to telescope into a few decades what it took Western countries a century or two to accomplish. The plan is to move 400 million people—about half the rural population—into urban centers by 2030. Doing so will require expanding towns into cities and even building new metropolises from scratch. That also means creating education, security and economic policies to help the masses adjust to the speedy transition from an agrarian to an urban society.
How China manages this transformation will have a huge impact on the country’s—indeed, the world’s—environment, and its social stability. McDonough’s projects in six major cities are China’s biggest experiment in ecologically sound development. If all goes well, his brand of ecodesign could serve as a model for China’s new urbanism.