Understanding China's Urbanization

Understanding China's Urbanization

The Great Demographic, Spatial, Economic, and Social Transformation

Li Zhang, Richard LeGates and Min Zhao

China’s urbanization is one of the great earth-changing phenomena of recent times. The way in which China continues to urbanize will have a critical impact on the world economy, global climate change, international relations and a host of other critical issues. Understanding and responding to China’s urbanization is of paramount importance to everyone. This book represents a unique exploration of the demographic, spatial, economic and social aspects of China’s urban transformation.

Chapter 4: Regional policies and regional urbanization

Li Zhang, Richard LeGates and Min Zhao

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian geography, asian urban and regional studies, development studies, asian development, migration, economics and finance, urban economics, geography, asian geography, cities and urban geography, human geography, politics and public policy, migration, urban and regional studies, migration, urban economics, urban studies, planning


China is a huge country with one-fifth of the world’s population and a land area more than eight times as large as the UK, Germany, and France combined. As in other very large countries, China has wide regional disparities in economic development (Brandt and Rawski, 2008; Wu and Gaubatz, 2012; Scott and Storper, 2014), FDI (shown in Table 5.2), household incomes (Zhang, F., 2014), residents’ consumption (Lee, 2000), infrastructure provision (Campanella, 2008), urban real estate development (Han, 1998) and economic structure (Hsing, 2012). To promote the overall development of China’s national economy and to address disparities in the development of different regions, the central government has implemented various regional policies in different periods (Wu and Gaubatz, 2012; Ren, 2013). In the transformation from a planned economy to a market economy, regional policies in China have experienced a number of important changes (Huang, 2008). The shift in policy from “favoring inland regions” to “reform and opening-up of coastal areas,” and from “giving priority to the eastern region” to “coordinated regional development” reflect changing regional strategies. These policy shifts have profoundly influenced the spatial pattern of China’s urbanization. This chapter reviews the changes in China’s regional policies since reform and opening up and the influences of these policies on regional urbanization, then measures and analyzes urbanization disparities among China’s three great regions (eastern, central, and western China), provinces, and geographical units smaller than provinces.

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