Strengthening urban-rural linkages stands at the centre of EU’s cohesion policy efforts towards achieving sustainable development in Europe. According to ESPON, polycentric development must integrate both a top-down European perspective with a bottom-up view embedded in local urban systems where the daily-life of population enfolds . Polycentric networks of small and medium sized cities “have the potential to counterbalance the dominant position of major metropolises in Europe” . The current EU Territorial agenda 2020 aims at integrating governance and planning based on broad partnership principle. It also welcomes place-based strategies developed locally to address local conditions.
For the EU, small and medium sized towns in rural areas play a crucial role. It is therefore important to improve the accessibility of urban centres from related rural territories to ensure the availability of job opportunities and services of general interest. Metropolitan regions should also be aware that they have responsibility for the development of their wider surroundings. This is crucial for issues like shaping migration from rural areas to cities and globalising local economies (Europe 2020 Strategy). By using the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Commission finances a wide variety of projects in key areas to enhancing competitiveness through urban-rural integration. The EU offers a wide scope of best practices of national and cross-regional city clusters, city networks and functional urban areas. Many of these have been presented to NDRC delegates since 2011.
In order to support balanced territorial development, China’s administration is permanently improving its systematic and efficient regional development and land use policy at national, provincial and local level. China has-well developed plans for urban-rural cooperation at national and provincial level. It does however lack of funds for the implementation of long terms programs that ensure urban-rural cooperation on equal terms. China requires a systematic mechanism of rural-urban cooperation in order to set incentives for peri-urban cooperation. CERECO organizes training program in cooperation with the European and Chinese governments to share experiences and improve the rural-urban linkages in China.