Dude! Where Can I Park My Car in China?

Look at the photo above, and you'll see just a few of China's 11.5 million private cars. (That 2006 number represents a one-third jump from 2005 levels.) Take a closer look, and you should be able to discern cars parked on sidewalks. And if you look really closely, you might be able to pick out cars double-parked on sidewalks, and even the guy whose job it is to direct cars into sidewalk parking "spots." What you won't see is that parking spots, for China's new middle class homeowners, are "one of the many modest causes that have brought a change in the urban mentality - beyond a consciousness of limited legal rights, to a growing awareness of the need for a more active 'civil society' as a balance against arbitrary officialdom." More after the jump. ::Economist.comWe know that China's headlong rush into the automobile era is having awful impacts on air quality and contributing to the world's warming. But it's also one of many factors driving the nation towards a system of increased public participation. Angry housing estate residents are organizing into democratically elected homeowners' associations to defend their parking spots - and other property rights - from the state and developers. The landmark property law passed by the central government in March is responsive to this new middle class and its auto addiction: the law includes principles governing the ownership of parking spaces, and it sides with the not-so-average middle class citizen, requiring developers to make spots available to housing estate residents. With government calling on private citizens to participate in monitoring pollution and environmental quality, and NGOs seeking to get people to participate in improving environmental quality with their purses, we're happy to see some good news about public participation and people defending their property. Even if that property is parking spots. ::Economist.com

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