Managing urban growth in a transforming China

Managing urban growth in the current rapid urbanization process has become a key issue for land use policy in transformation China. This paper by Pengjun Zhao of the Centre for Sustainable Cities maps and assesses the performance of urban containment strategies in China, looking at the case of Beijing over a 19-year period (1990–2009).

The analysis shows that to a large extent containment strategies perform well in terms of concentrating urban growth in planned suburban areas and promoting compact development. However, the unexpected growth in the rural–urban fringe and the decreased compactness of the fringes of the mixed urban areas and planned peripheral constellations caused by dispersed and illegal development suggest that the municipal containment strategies are being challenged by local development activities. Most sprawling developments at the local level are favoured by the new trend towards local autonomy and fiscal responsibility in the current transformation process. The results reveal that municipal growth control might not be achieved by all local jurisdictions when local economic motivations are involved. Particularly, urban sprawl has been fuelled by the development of urban real estate which can create significant revenues for local government and private developers. In the interest of future policy development, the management capacity of current containment strategies should be enhanced to mitigate the negative effects of market-led development in the present transformation context.

Paper (PDF)