By world standards, Pacific Asia is not highly urbanized. Just over one-third of its population is classified as urban, a much lower proportion than in Europe, the Americas or the Middle East. However, urban growth rates are high, being twice those of the Third World as a whole. The reason for this apparent contradiction is that rural populations are substantial and continue to grow rapidly throughout Pacific Asia. The consequence is both intensive rural and intensive urban development, with 10 of the world’s 30 most populous cities located in the region. These figures suggest that urban growth tends to be concentrated in large cities and this is indeed the case, although with considerable regional variations. In fact, such diversity is typical of Pacific Asia, as Figure 8.1 reveals, making explanation of current trends somewhat difficult.
Patterns of any sort are difficult to discern within the region but one or two points are worthy of note. First, the most advanced economies, the four little tigers of Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and South Korea, do emerge as having a higher urban proportion of their total population. Indeed, the East Asian states as a subregion can also be characterized in this way (inclusive of Japan). Conversely, those countries with the weakest economies are characterized by the most rapid urban growth. This is a feature common to the Third World as a whole and not only reflects a natural deceleration of urban growth once