Academic journal article China: An International Journal

Spatial-Temporal Contrasts in Integrated Urban-Rural Development in China, 1990-2010

Academic journal article China: An International Journal

Spatial-Temporal Contrasts in Integrated Urban-Rural Development in China, 1990-2010

Article excerpt



For a long period following the establishment of People's Republic of China in 1949, urban and rural areas were treated separately and differently. Since 1978, China has experienced over three decades of rapid economic growth, with annual growth rates of over 9 per cent. However, despite this "economic miracle", the country has also witnessed ever-enlarging urban-rural inequalities across a range of indicators such as income, education, medical care, provision of infrastructure and social insurance. For example, while the per capita urban household income increased from 343 yuan in 1978 to 13,041 yuan in 2007, over the same period the per capita rural household income increased from 134 yuan to only 3,998 yuan. (1) A cluster of studies that investigated urban-rural inequalities in China have attributed the inequalities to factors such as a dualistic urban-rural structure, (2) urban-biased development strategy, (3,4) market forces (5) and taxation. (6) Urban-biased policies and related measures like the household registration system (hukou) were initially formulated on the basis of the typical socio-economic conditions in China in the period after 1949. These policies and measures have, however, intentionally diverted resources (capital, labour and materials) from rural to urban areas, and induced greater urban-rural inequality in China. (7)

In 2002, the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for the first time stressed the importance of the countryside's achieving moderate prosperity (xiaokang), and declared that China's socio-economic development must incorporate both urban and rural areas alike. This declaration caused a paradigm shift to the long-standing separation between the urban and the rural, by placing urban and rural development under the same framework. Thereafter, a series of policies and measures to achieve integrated urban-rural development in China was formulated and implemented. However, China is a vast country of huge socio-economic and geographic differences--as such, levels of integrated urban-rural development can be expected to be very different among provinces within different time periods. (8) This is particularly evident in the different reactions of the provinces with respect to the transitions of decentralisation, marketization, urbanisation and globalisation in the post-reform era. The way in which integrated urban-rural development has evolved in China has not, to the authors' knowledge, been clearly analysed at the provincial level. Thus, the aim of this paper was to investigate the spatial-temporal distribution of levels of integrated urban-rural development in China in the post-reform period.

The structure of the article is as follows. The first section provides an understanding of urban-rural linkages and integrated urban-rural development in China.

The second introduces the research methodology and data, and the third assesses urban-rural linkages in each province and analyses spatial-temporal contrasts in integrated urban-rural development. The conclusion offers a discussion on the research findings.


The Evolution of Integrated Urban-Rural Development in China

Generally, the strategy of integrated urban-rural development in China was first proposed in the 1980s to combat inequalities between urban and rural areas. However, the local governments charged with implementing this strategy share two major misunderstandings: first, that integrated urban-rural development means an integrated distribution of industries (a mix of agricultural and non-agricultural industries coexisting in the same area); and second, that integrated urban-rural development refers to building urban and rural areas alike (i.e., transforming villages into cities, and peasants into citizens). (9,10) The major shortcoming in the interpretation of integrated urban-rural development lies in the oversight of the unique economic, social and geographic features of urban and rural areas--that is, the productivity and other socio-economic factors in cities and rural areas are different, and cities and rural areas in each province practise different approaches in the distribution of land, capital, labour and technology. …

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