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 10: Conclusion

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


During the past three decades of China’s urbanization, the transition from state-controlled to market-oriented development guided by national policy and the ongoing transition from pursuing fast growth to restructuring and improving the quality of urbanization have become increasingly mutually dependent and inseparable. The simultaneous occurrence of these two transition stages provided China with an opportunity. However, owing to the speed with which socio-economic development in China has occurred, it was impossible to complete institutional transitions such as transforming peasant workers into full citizens, or transforming China’s population from a semi-urban to an urban population immediately. With the vast remaining supply of rural surplus labor that will likely continue to be released as a result of agricultural modernization, the semi-urban population will continue to exist or even expand. This will hinder the improvement of urbanization quality unless government at every level adopts appropriate policies to manage migration and improve the quality of urbanization. The transformation from a semi-urban to an urban population has two potential pathways.

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