Unrestrained development must not be allowed to sacrifice strategic long-term city planning, Minister of Construction Yu Zhengsheng has warned.
He said China would commit an irreversible mistake if rampant building was allowed to ruin city landscapes and their cultural and historical values, Xinhua reported.
An international conference hall would be admirable, but not as desirable, if it was built in an ancient village which should have come under a preservation order, Mr Yu told a Beijing forum on strategic city planning.
Mayors were torn between economic pressures to have rapid growth and the long-term development of the cities, with the latter often being ignored, he added.
Pressure also came from property developers and city dwellers eager to see tangible results of development such as skyscrapers and highways, sidelining cultural characteristics.
Mr Yu's experience as mayor of Yantai, in Shandong province, during the mid-1980s added extra weight to his remarks.
He said city planning was a teething problem which should command equal prominence to that of agricultural and water concerns.
Mayors lacked co-ordinated vision towards urban growth and the absence of legal boundaries aggravated the problem.
Mr Yu said property investment had risen 10 per cent in the past year while the number of construction workers in China was estimated to exceed 35 million.