Eco-City Comparison: West versus East

Austin Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city (SSTEC) in northeast China is described by Zhan and de Jong as "the best-known" of all eco-cities.1 As a newly created urban area, it was constructed with the intention to create a model city of, inter alia, ecologically benign technology, public transport, fresh air, and minimal carbon emissions. SSTEC is reputed to be "the first experiment to plan, build (sic) a new city in an ecological way."2 This article examines the nature of Tianjin's claims to eco-city status and compares and contrasts some of its key performance indicator [KPI] goals and achievements. As a control, an outline of KPIs from Tianjin Eco-city are set against the environmental and sustainable criteria derived from London, chosen given the brevity of this article. This article is not an international comparison of Eco-city Frameworks between two eco-cities; rather, it is a comparative assessment between a large, historic, non-eco-prefixed city and one of the most high-profile, new Chinese eco-cities in the world. These cities are not comparable in scale, history, culture, industry or sociopolitical structure-that is one reason for their choice. This article does not consider whether one or the other city is better or more or less compliant, but is an attempt to understand whether the "eco" label itself has merit. If benchmarks for the urban environmental performance of a city are site specific, then are they meaningful benchmarks? If non-eco-cities comply with eco-criteria, then what does the prefix tell us? The intention is to begin a process that leads to better understanding of the eco-city phenomenon and to inquire as to whether referencing eco-city labels can provide a useful interpretative mechanism for urban strategic planning.3

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-236
Number of pages8
JournalSustainability (United States)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • KPI
  • London
  • Tianjin Eco-city
  • eco-city
  • sustainability


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