BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- As China advances urbanization to narrow the rural-urban income gap and boost growth, agri-urbanism provides an alternative path to realizing sustainable development, says a renowned Chinese academic in architecture.
Ma Qingyun, dean of the University of Southern California School of Architecture, told Xinhua on Saturday that agri-urbanism is a practice to combine agricultural products and urbanism to form a systemic and sustainable development for rural areas.
Cities are facing mounting pressure to accommodate a growing number of residents, Ma said. The urban population on the Chinese Mainland, which exceeded the rural population only at the end of 2011, is expected to hit 70 percent by 2040, experts project.
"If we focus on developing rural areas, more rural residents will choose to stay in their hometown," Ma said, "This will buy more time for city authorities to find solutions to fix problems cropping up during the urbanization."
Based on such an idea, he launched the Jade Valley project in Lantian county, Xi'an, capital of China's northern Shanxi province, to explore a new pattern of sustainable development.
As an experiment in agri-urbanism, the project includes five components: the wine village, the old town revitalization, the new street in-fill, the wine town and the vineyard, Ma said.
The project is aimed at improving local people's living standards by establishing an industry chain that integrates high value-added agriculture, education, arts, and ecological tourism.
On the relation between agri-urbanism and urbanization, Ma said they are two concepts that could go hand in hand.
"Agri-urbanism is to help turn rural people into urbanites at their hometown by helping them live a better life, thus preventing them from flocking to cities," he said.
The model of the Jade Valley project could be replicated in many other rural areas, Ma said, adding that those places could capitalize on their own local products and culture to realize economic development while maintaining their original landscape.
On top of that, agri-urbanism conforms to a popular trend among many urbanites of returning to the pastoral life, Ma said.