The evolving polycentricity of Chinese cities and its impacts on economic productivity

Authors: Yingcheng Li*, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Topics: China, Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: polycentricity, suburbanization, economic productivity, China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Diplomat Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the last decade, polycentricity has attracted considerable interest from policy makers and urban planners and has been translated into a range of normative policies and plans. Polycentric urban regions or mega-regions have been argued to be the new forms of cities in the globalization context. While polycentricity is expected to contribute to better socioeconomic development (e.g., higher productivity and less congestion), empirical results are usually mixed and mainly based on the US and EU evidence. Drawing upon a fine-grained population dateset (LandScan), this paper investigates how Chinese cities have evolved towards polycentric development during the 2000-2016 period and how this evolving process of polycentric development has affected the economic productivity of Chinese cities. Empirical results show that Chinese cities have in general become more polycentric over the last fifteen years. However, being more polycentric does not necessarily lead to higher economic productivity. In fact, the impacts of polycentricity on economic productivity is contingent on many factors such as the size and population of cities. Polycentric development could not be the "one-size-fits-all" strategy for local governments to pursue higher economic productivity.

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