Among the consequences of China’s continued urbanization is a continued decline in the quantity of space and quality of life that cities provide for their less affluent residents. As both transportation rights and public gathering spaces disappear, the disadvantaged are finding that China’s major cities—designed to be business friendly and automobile friendly—are becoming harder to navigate and less hospitable. This essay considers some of the consequences of urbanization in the author’s home city of Shanghai, along with some of the ways that people are fighting back, from repurposing abandoned urban spaces to building and rebuilding communities online. Urbanization of the kind afflicting Shanghai is clearly unsustainable. The city of the future, if there is to be one, must be created with these lessons in mind.

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