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Shanghai vs Singapore
Urbanisation is the process in which towns or cities are formed and become
larger as more and more people begin living and working in the central areas. It is
closely related to the potential social development and growth of the economy, or in
more specific term, urbanisation occurs in regions that still have room for
improvement. Within half a century, urbanisation has shifted its concentration across
the globe, from North America, Europe to Asia and Africa (UNESDA 2015), in which
53% of the world’s urban populations are located (UN 2014). Although with almost
200 million people moving into 16 out of 28 mega cities in the world, in the first 10
years of the 21st century, World Bank predicted this is only the dawn of migration in
Asia (Fensom, A 2015). The roots for urban migration in Asia are almost the same as
other parts of the world where people believe there is a higher chance to have a
better life in big well-developed cities (Purvis, K 2015). Among the sixteen
metropolises, there are Shanghai and Singapore. They are neck and neck in
competing for the largest port in the world. This essay aims to compare and contrast
the connection between expansion and urbanisation in Shanghai and Singapore and
how it affects the life of the citizens through the article “Megalophobia” and the case
“Designing Our City: Planning for a sustainable Singapore”. The great variation in the
urban definition and the size of places deemed urban is readily apparent (Haul, C

‘Megalophobia’ illustrates the process of urbanisation through the attempt to

control housing and population growth in Shanghai and its national capital, Beijing.
The two cities have tightened the migration laws to avoid the evolving slum-sprawl
which happens mostly at developing areas. Along with that, to resolve numerous
complaints about society issues, rural migrants are ineligible for urban benefit such
as housing, education and subsidised health care.
(Rubbles after destruction of a neighbourhood in Shanghai)

‘Designing Our City: Planning for a sustainable Singapore’ case study is a

project, attempts to reshape the country for long-term sustainability and design an
ideal living environment. The Singaporean government is planning to construct more
homes for its citizens while maintaining the balance between that with the ecosystem
of the country. In addition, traditional buildings and constructions are not placed
under conservation but are, too, part of the development plan of the Lion city.
Authorities are also taking care of the life of Singaporeans by implanting
conveniences around residential and major MRT station.
(Newly established accommodation near Bartley MRT and other amenities)

According to Katherine Purvis (The Guardian, 2015), an emergence in urban

population would dangerously exhaust resources and push other aspects of the
society to instability. With the population increases on daily basis, the available living
environment will become worse and eventually uninhabitable. Shanghai has been
suffering with overpopulation for years, but the quick-fix solution was not at the best
interest for all. More than 30 areas with old buildings, villages were mowed down to
block the urban slum controversy that usually happens in developing city. This
reaction from the city authorities forced the outsider, the people who try to migrate in
Shanghai, to be homeless, unemployed and, of course, had no other choice but to
return to their homeland. Consequently, it dealt a heavy blow to the employment rate
of China in 2016 as the unemployment rate peaked at more than 12% (Bloomberg,
2016). While Shanghai did the unthinkable to the inhabitants, Singapore was able to
support their people not just mentality, but also physically. The young state located in
Southeast Asia provided solutions to not just resolve the issues, but also to operate
them to their advantages and needs. Despite the continuous growth in population
with limited land, Singapore still planned out housing plans, the ecosystem on ground
level as a dense intensity to ensure a good quality life for all. Additional
accommodations are further surrounded by amenities to bring more convenience for
the enclosing residential. For the first quarter of 2016, the numbers of demand for
house was even greater the quantity that was available at the time (URA, 2016).

Another talking point would be the use of public and private vehicles in big
cities. As the urban population grows, the quantity of vehicles being used has also
risen. Therefore, public transportations need to be updated on a more regular basis
to match the demand of the travelers. Singapore encourages its people opt to use
the public service provided by the state. Over the last 10 years, Singapore MRT had
been undergoing changes with its railway system for three times, including upgrading
and establishing new lines; with the latest plan, MRT overall travelling length will be
doubled as well. According to “Designing Our City”, new dwellings will be constructed
nearby MRT stations to further assist citizens moving around the city. Meanwhile,
dealing with the pressure from the community, Shanghai only resolution was to
based on the hukou licensed, a form of house registration in China, and limit the
residents from purchase housing, vehicles or access to public transportation. All
solutions proposed by Shanghai up till now seems to be just a temporary plan since
their main action is to try pushing out the immigrants who currently live in the
metropolis. Singapore, on the other hand, has thoroughly designed a more
fascinating and doable plan. Comparing between the cities, the city-state from
Southeast Asia has done a far better job than its fellow city. Likewise, Shanghai was
evidently considered to be having the worst congestion in China (Shenshen, 2014).
Clearly, the China city has much work to do to help its people.

Urbanisation is the right time for people to meet and understand one another
in order to transform their city into a better place to live, study and work. Throughout
the integration development process, Singapore’s goal is to connect the people,
creating a cooperative and consensus society where different cultures have the same
right and could freely express themselves. Everyone all has access to education and
job opportunities have increased rapidly to meet with the demand of the natives, as
well as the foreigners. Unlike Singapore, Shanghai chose to approach urbanisation in
a quite different manner. Other than the mentioned hukou, which is the prior factor for
immigrants having access into urban lifestyle, another huge barrier that is keeping
the children from education is that the family has to prove financially, that they are
capable of paying the bills. Consequently, the regulation has prevented up to 80,000
children from entering primary school, notoriously contributed to the 60 million
uneducated children in China. However, Shanghai doesn’t look to improve it any time
soon. Illiteracy later on would affect the understanding of social issues, which
negatively stop the growth of the region (Literacy Foundation, n.d). Regardless of the
consequences, China still allows Shanghai and surprisingly Beijing to continue this
approach since they are the country’s biggest economic centrals.

In conclusion, changes are supposed to happen as megacities approach

urbanisation. Urbanisation raises up various issues among the society, but it is up to
the authorities to handle the threats. Singapore tackles the threat with ease due to
their ideal of bringing better life to the people. Shanghai progress is stop by their fear
of growing bigger, which eventually prevent them from evolving as well. In general,
Singapore will enjoy growing in a much faster pace than Shanghai thanks to fitting
solution. There is no right or wrong, just consequences of the decision.

Reference Lists:

● Bench Mark 2016, ‘China’ Hidden Unemployment Rate’, Bloomberg, 6 June,

viewed 17 July 2016
● China 2016, ‘Megalophobia’, The Economist, 30 April, viewed 15 July 2016
● Fensom, A 2015, ‘Asia’s Urbanization ‘Just Beginning’’, The Diplomat, 30
January, viewed 18 2016
● Haub, C 2009, ‘What is a city? What is urbanisation?’, Population Reference
Bureau, n.d, viewed 16 July 2016
● Purvis, K 2015, ‘2015 Challenges: Urbanization’, The Guardian, 26 March,
viewed 17 July 2016
● Shenshen, Z 2014, ‘Shanghai’s traffic jams rated worst in China’, Shanghai
Daily, 22 August, viewed 18 July 2016
● UNDESA 2005, 'Interactive map: Urban growth',, viewed 19
July, 2016
● United Nation 2014, ‘World’s population increasingly urban with more than
half living in urban areas’,, 10 July, viewed 17 July 2016
● Urban Redevelopment Authority 2012, ‘Designing Our City’, URA, Singapore,
viewed 16 July 2016
● Urban Redevelopment Authority 2016, ‘Release of 1st Quarter 2016 real
estate statistics’, URA, Singapore, viewed 18 July 2016 <>