China's Mega-Cities Are Combining Into Mega-Regions, but They're Doing It Wrong

Jiawen Yang, Ge Song, and Jian Lin

© 2012 Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Working Paper

The findings and conclusions of this Working Paper reflect the views of the author(s) and have not been subject to a detailed review by the staff of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Contact the Lincoln Institute with questions or requests for permission to reprint this paper. [email protected]

Lincoln Institute Product Code: WP13JY1

Reflecting upon China’s current path of regional urbanization, this research studies the polycentric structure of China’s mega-regions. It defines the concept and measurement for mega- regional polycentricity, and utilizes the spatial statistics tool—standard deviational ellipse of directional distribution—to measure the demographic spatial pattern of individual mega-regions. The result reveals that most mega-regions in China do not have significant polycentricity. They are either dominated by a single major center, or by a number of major centers clustered closely. A challenge for China’s mega-regional development is to explore the potential policy instruments that can promote a more polycentric mega-regional spatial pattern and more balanced spatial development.

Keywords: Regional Planning, Polycentric Development, Statistical Measures, Spatial Pattern, China.

You may never have heard of the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, but by some measures it is one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in the world, with an official population of 29 million—about the same as Saudi Arabia—and an unofficial population of 32 million or more.

The city center of Chongqing boasts a mere 9 million people, but dozens of satellite districts such as Fuling (population 1 million) and Wanzhou (1.6 million) are each major cities in their own right. In total, Chongqing covers an area the size of Austria, and it’s about to become part of a mega-region that is even larger, part of a move in China to create the biggest urban municipalities on Earth.

Chongqing, for example, will be part of the even larger Chuanyu mega-region, which also includes the major city of Chengdu and 13 cities from Sichuan province. The Capital Economic Zone encompasses Beijing and Tianjin; the Pearl River Delta region includes Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong; and the Yangtze River Delta region is centered around Shanghai.1

  • 1. source: