Economics & Finance
• 4 minute read

China Business Knowledge @ CUHK Luncheon Series: The Recipe of a Liveable and Sustainable City

Hu, Maggie Rong(胡榮)

Where we choose to live is closely related to our cultural preferences and how we make our city is a true reflection of our identity

By China Business Knowledge @ CUHK

Our culture and identity have a lot to do with where and how we want to live. In our seventh talk of the China Business Knowledge @CUHK Luncheon Series: The Recipe of a Liveable and Sustainable City, the speakers revealed how culture influences our decisions in buying properties and how urban planning reflected our own identity.

Held on September 18, 2018, the event featured Prof. Maggie Hu, Assistant Professor at School of Hotel and Tourism Management at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School and Mr. Clement Lau, Director and Head of Development and Valuations, Commercial Property of Hongkong Land.

“After you settled down in a new country, it is very natural for you to consider buying a house, especially for Chinese. They think buying properties is a safer bet compared with other investments such as stocks or bonds. They are buying properties both for self-occupancy and investment purposes,” said Prof. Maggie Hu based on her research study.

While living in Sydney, she observed the newly emerged ‘China towns’ and became intrigued by the reason behind the formation of these areas. “Migrants from different countries congregate in a city as a means to finding support in the new and unfamiliar environment as well as preserving their own culture,” Prof. Hu said.

In her study, she found out that people are willing to pay more to live closer to those who share similar culture. “Homebuyers are willing to pay higher prices for homes in neighbourhoods closer to their culture of origin. If the cultural distance between a homebuyer and the suburb decreases by one point, housing price increases by 1.1 percent”, Prof. Hu commented.

Prof. Hu also explained to the audience how cultural distance is calculated using the six dimensions of cultural framework by social scientist Geert Hoftstede. For example, Australians scored significantly higher than Chinese on two of the six dimensions: individualism and indulgence.

Supported by her study, she challenged the concept of ‘Melting Pot’ which describes how immigrants typically melt into one homogeneous society and give up their original cultural identities.

“I think ‘Salad Bowl’ is a more realistic metaphor for culture assimilation, especially for Asians. For some cultures, people will try to retain their distinctive flavour. Like a salad bowl, they do not want to lose their own flavour. They want to retain their own cultural identities,” she concluded.

Mr. Clement Lau, on the other hand, gave an inspiring talk from his experience on the intricate relationship between city planning and our identity.

“The making of the city is actually the making of ourselves. Therefore, whatever we are trying to do to the city shows our character, our preferences, our lifestyle. Basically, when we plan our city, it reflects our human nature,” Mr Lau said, reflected upon a quote from American urban sociologist Robert Park.

Mr. Lau also shared with the audience the latest view on sustainable development which is contrary to what most people might think – a concentrated and compact city is greener and more sustainable than the suburbs.

“Most people don’t like density because density is the equivalence of a condense and poor environment. But subject to good urban design, architecture and sufficient infrastructure, we can come up with some very interesting ideas,” Mr. Lau said.

The principles of sustainable development, according to him, includes high-density developments supported by public transit systems, infrastructures created for long-term value, integration of developments with surrounding areas including walkability, enhancement of urban environment and connectivity, and transit-oriented development.

“Other than just density, we also need to create something that’s long-lasting. We don’t want something that is only good for a decade or two. To do so, flexibility is the key – we need to have [buildings] that are flexible enough to be changed to other uses if required,” he said.

Mr. Lau ended his talk with a quote from David Harvey, a highly influential scholar in the development of modern geography, and his vision for Hong Kong.

“Cities are not structures; cities are human beings like you and me. We are the ones who drive how the cities should evolve and transform. If we are able to apply some of these principles [of urban planning], Hong Kong will continue to prosper in the future,” said Mr. Lau.

The luncheon talk attracted over 40 participants from the business community, CUHK alumni and the media, who all contributed to a highly interactive forum.

Stay tuned for our next Luncheon Talk on 24 October, 2018 when we will explore the topic on ‘The Myth of Leadership’.

China Business Knowledge @ CUHK is the knowledge platform of CUHK Business School. It showcases top-notch research by the faculty at CUHK Business School and offers thought leadership and insights into the ongoing developments and modern business environment of China and the world.

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