Editor’s Note: As stated by Eliel Saarinen in his master piece, The City: Its Growth, Its Decay, Its Future, a city is an organic body that evolves in line with its natural law of growth and decay. This statement strongly justifies the necessity of urban renewal, whose purpose, according to the first International Seminar on Urban Renewal held in Den Haag in August 1958, is to deliberately change the urban environment and to inject new vitality through planned adjustment of existing areas to respond to present and future requirements for urban living and working. Although the practice of urban renewal existed for a long time in the history of city development all over the world, it was mostly limited to architectural scale before the modern time. It has become more significant in city development after the world stepped into the process of urbanization under the impetus of the industrial revolutions. In contrast to urban expansion which is characterized by the urbanization of rural areas in an incremental way, urban renewal, as another mode of urban development, is featured by the regeneration or the re-urbanization of existing built-up areas, concerning mainly the renovation of old cities, the redevelopment of industrial sites, and the densification of peri-urbanized areas in an internal way from the multiple perspectives of physical adjustment, economic restructuring, social integration, ecological restoration, and cultural renaissance. Thus, it is more efficient in terms of land use and often regarded as an effective approach to high-quality urban development.
In China, urban renewal has become a hot topic in the field of urban planning and development after its reform and opening-up, but it is not at the same level as urban expansion under the circumstance of accelerating urbanization. It started to catch more attention after China became an urban society in 2011 and implemented the policy of New Urbanization in 2014, which marked the country’s ambition to reorient its urban growth from high-speed expansion to high-quality development. Consequently, there emerged the new concept of inventory-based planning which highlights the efficient utilization of construction land stock, giving more significance to urban renewal rather than urban expansion. The Proposals on the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and the Vision 2035 recently approved on the 5th Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee proposed the implementation of an Urban Renewal Action as a measure to promote the human-centered New Urbanization. However, under the circumstance of socio-economic transition, the practice of urban renewal in China is facing a number of difficulties, such as the awareness on private property rights, the diversification of stakeholders, the complexity of operations, the requirement of co-governance, and so on, which also challenge China’s traditional top-down approach of urban planning. Therefore, it is urgent to establish an institutional mechanism of urban renewal, based on innovative experiments and by way of legislation.