Effects of Mass Industrialization on the Rise of Cities (Birmingham and Beijing)
Industrialization is one of the major factors that influence the rise and growth of cities around the world. It is driven by economic, social and technological changes that lead to the transformation of a society from agrarian to industrial one. As industrialization takes place, people move from rural to urban areas. This results in the development of new cities as well as increase in their extent. Industrial revolution that occurred in the late 18th century and early 19th century laid ground for the growth of most existing cities in Europe and North America (Cave, 2005, p. 250). Over the last century, mass industrialization in developing countries such as China and Libya has also led to the growth of major cities, such as Beijing, the capital city of China. As Yeo (2007, p. 116) explains, mass industrialization may have favorable and/or unfavorable effects on the growth of cities. In the case of Beijing, for instance, mass industrialization has been one of the major factors that have let to its rapid growth in the recent years (Wang, 2011, p. 90). On the other hand, mass industrialization has led to the decline in urban development in Birmingham, one of the metropolitan cities in the United Kingdom. This paper presents a comparative analysis of the impacts of mass industrialization on the rise and growth of the two cities; Beijing and Birmingham.
Impact of Industrialization on the Rise of Beijing
During the end of the first half of the 20th century, no major industrial activities were taking place in Beijing. As Hui (2013, p. 124) explains, Chinese economy was largely driven by agricultural activities that highly relied on man-power. In 1953, the government of China laid down a Five-Year Plan that opened the way for industrialization in Beijing. The plan, which mainly relied on principles borrowed from the Russian government, mainly focused on the establishment of industrial activities around China. The implementation of the plan started in 1956 with the mining of Coal in Beijing. The small steel and iron factories that existed in the city were improved. As well, the central government invested more in machine and electrical industries. Infrastructure was also developed; new railway lines that linked Beijing to other parts of China were developed. Capital Airport was constructed in 1957. As a result of the improvements, many people started moving from rural areas to Beijing to seek for jobs. This led to a rapid increase in population in the city (Hui, 2013, p. 124).
The rapid growth of population and industrialization in Beijing in the 1950s and early 1960s led to over-population and surplus production. In response, the central, communist government of China forced modernization of agriculture in order to increase market for industrial products. At the same time, labor input was intensified to support industrial production. To regulate population increase in the city, excess labor force was transferred to rural areas through ideological mobilization (Wang, 2011, p. 90). By 1978, Beijing had become a major industrial city, comprising of primary, secondary and tertiary industries. As industrial growth continued during the succeeding years, Chinese government regulated population growth in Beijing and other cities through supporting various investments in the rural areas. Although Chinese economy encountered several phases of economic crises, this did not have major adverse impact on industrialization in Beijing (Wang, 2011, p. 90).
Since the early phases of industrialization, Beijing has registered a positive growth and development. In fact, it has risen from insignificance to a point where is now ranked as one of the top international metropolitan cities in the world (Qi, Shen & Dou, 2013, p. 205). Beijing’s industrial sector is currently experiencing rapid and sustainable growth characterized by developed metropolitan economy, good traditional industrial sector and hi-tech businesses. To support industrialization in the city, the government of china has invested heavily in rich intellectual and intensive technological resources. Today, the city has more than sixty universities and more than 400 vocational and polytechnic schools (Qi, Shen & Dou, 2013, p. 205). The continuous rise in population in the city has translated into high rate of commodity demand. Most large commercial institutions in China are based in Beijing. Health and medical services are in plenty in the city. The city is also well known as a perfect display for Chinese culture. It is ranked among the superior international metropolitan cities in terms of infrastructure development. It has easy access to radiating airways, highway and railway networks. It is the leading city in terms of information technology development in China (Qi, Shen & Dou, 2013, p. 206). Overall, Beijing is one of the leading metropolitan cities in the World in terms of socio-economic development. The current status of Beijing has mainly been brought about by the rapid increase in industrialization in China over the last several decades.
Impact of Industrialization on the Rise of Birmingham
Unlike Beijing, mass industrialization has had an unfavorable impact on the growth of Birmingham. Industrial growth in Birmingham started in the late 18th century, during industrial revolution that mainly occurred in Europe and North America (Zettersten, 2011, p. 60). The emergence of the city during the period may be attributed to the fact that Britain was the most industrialized country by then. As in many other cities in Britain, industrialization in Birmingham started with the development of textile industries. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, Briton textile industry did not face significant competition in the international market. This led to the rapid growth of Birmingham city, among other cities in the country. The reason why the textile industry supported industrialization is that there were low start-up costs, use of unskilled labor and easy entry and exit into the industry (Gilmore & Williams, 2012, p. 195). During the 19th century, iron and railway industries were established in the city. Glass, rubber and steel industries were established between 1870s and 1920s. By mid 20th century, pro-chemicals, plastics and automobile industries were growing rapidly.
Generally, the period between mid 18th century and 1980s saw the rise of Birmingham from just a market town to a major industrialized metropolitan city. It was well known due to a combination of factors, such as influx of workers, commercial innovation, scientific achievement and civic investment. By 1980, Birmingham had become one of the cities in the UK with major automobile producers. Areas in the city that were bombed during World War II were re-built. Infrastructure was developed; both roads for vehicles and paths for pedestrians were constructed.
As the city grew, there was constant increase in population, resulting from immigration from rural areas. Between 1950s and 1980s, the number of emigrants into Birmingham increased rapidly. Most of the immigrants came from Ireland as they sought to escape from unemployment and economic deprivation in their homeland. There was also major influx of immigrants from other countries, especially the commonwealth nations (Therbon, 2010, p. 47).
By 1970s, Birmingham’s economy was largely supported by automobile industry and most of the immigrants were employed in that industry. By early 1980’s the British automobile industry collapsed, an occurrence that highly affected the economy of Birmingham. Birmingham could no longer rely on the industry. As a result, Birmingham dropped from being the city with the highest to the lowest GDP in Britain. More than 200,000 people lost jobs. By 1982, unemployment rate in the city had risen to 20%. Although new measures to support the economy of Birmingham were laid out, the failure of the automobile industry led to the collapse of its overall industrial economy (Therbon, 2010, p. 47). The high rate of unemployed immigrants led to emergence of slums, overcrowding, illnesses, riot and wrangles between people from different backgrounds. There have been measures to regenerate the city, which have been successful so far.
In conclusion, industrialization has been a major driver for the growth of cities for a long time. However, the factors at play during the process of industrialization keep on changing and they may have favorable or unfavorable impact on the growth of cities. In the case of Beijing, industrial development in China has supported its constant growth since 1950s. Despite the fact that there have been instances of economic crises in China, they have not affected industrial development and the growth of Beijing. As a result, Beijing has grown to become one of the major metropolitan cities in the world. In the case of Birmingham, industrial development supported its growth to a point where it became one of the largest metropolitan cities in Britain. However, its overreliance on industrial development (automobile industry) led its economy to collapse in early 1980s. Although new strategies to regenerate Birmingham were established, it has not been able to catch up with many other major cities which they were on the same level before the occurrence.
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