Department of Geography and Resource Management (GRM), The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Research Projects

Analyzing the process and determinants of uneven dual-track urbanization in China: The case of Fujian

Prof. SHEN Jianfa

The concept of dual-track urbanization has been proposed to describe China’s rapid urbanization in the reform period. But no systematic study on uneven urbanization has been conducted at county level which has specific local and regional contexts. Professor Jianfa Shen, Professor in GRM Department and Director of Research Centre for Urban and Regional Development, Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, has completed a research on dual-track urbanization in Fujian, China to fill above research gap. The project titled “Analyzing the process and determinants of uneven dual-track urbanization in China: The case of Fujian ” was funded by Research Grants Council of Hong Kong SAR (RGC Project No. CUHK 14603315) for the period 1st January 2016 to 30th June 2018. The result has been published in following papers: Shen Jianfa and Lin Lijie, 2020, The different effects of the determinants of urbanisation on state-sponsored and spontaneous urbanisation in Fujian Province of China. Population Space Place, 2020; e2364, 1-13,; Lin Lijie, Shen Jianfa, 2019, Spatial patterns and driving forces of uneven dual-track urbanization in Fujian province: An approach based on employment sectors. Urban Studies,56(12) 2568-2584,

Using data mainly from censuses, this project examined the uneven urbanization process in Fujian. The state-sponsored urbanization was measured by the size of non-agricultural population. The spontaneous urbanization was measured by the size of temporary population. The project examined the spatial patterns and driving forces of state-sponsored and spontaneous urbanization (Fig. 1). The shift from small towns to large urban areas is found in both tracks of urbanization. Both administrative force, internal market force, and external market force affect the levels of state-sponsored and spontaneous urbanization. First, temporal analysis shows that the administrative force (share of state-owned sector) and the specific internal market force (share of collective-owned sector) had a negative relation with the levels of two urbanization tracks for the province as a whole. The external force affects both tracks of urbanization. Second, a spatial analysis found relatively balanced levels of state-sponsored and spontaneous urbanization in state-led urbanized areas (both are high) and less developed areas (both are low) (Fig. 2). Coastal developed areas had a large foreign funded employment sector with a low level of state-sponsored urbanization. The Fujian case shows that the two tracks of urbanization have been advancing despite of the relative decline of the state-owned and collective-owned sectors.

After analysis of the temporal and spatial changes of urbanization based on county level units, statistical analysis was conducted to explain the different levels of state-sponsored urbanization and spontaneous urbanization. Based on literature review and previous studies, five groups of explanatory variables were used to explain the level of urbanization. They described important demographic, social and economic conditions in various areas. The research tested a series of research hypotheses to reveal the dynamics and determinants of dual-track urbanization in Fujian.
Firstly, administrative ranks of area units have significant impacts on both state-sponsored and spontaneous urbanization. The administrative rank of county-level cities has a negative impact on the state-sponsored urbanization level. It is noted that county-level cities have been converted from previous counties and they are similar to some extent. The administrative rank of urban areas of central cities has a positive impact on the spontaneous urbanization level. Spontaneous urbanization proceeds with state-sponsored urbanization in such central cities. Secondly, the initial level of urbanization has a great impact on the levels of state-sponsored and spontaneous urbanization. Thirdly, the level of development is the most remarkable determinant of state-sponsored urbanization. Economic growth has some positive impacts on spontaneous urbanization. Fourthly, the share of secondary sector is the most important determinant of the spontaneous urbanization level. But the share of secondary sector does not have a significant impact on state-sponsored urbanization.

Interviews with urban policy makers, community leaders and residents were conducted for better understanding of the official planned development, spontaneous urbanization process as well as the consequences of urbanization. Theoretical insights were drawn regarding the driving forces of uneven urbanization and the relation between urbanization and development.