'Building Relationships between Cities and Towns in China: The Emerging City System in Chongqing'

Regional Studies Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
RSA Regions e-Zine, 2018, 2018, (2: Engaging, Exchanging and Impacting: Regional Research for All), pp. 1-10
Issue Date:
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Among the many challenges of working on cities in China are changing urban definitions, streams of policies and plans, and even the creation of hundreds of new cities. The Chinese government has periodically changed the definition of urban places, based on population size and the built-up area, and aligned administrative divisions with cities, establishing new cities at the province, prefecture, and county levels of government. In 2014 the Chinese government released an unprecedented national urbanization plan, called the New-type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020). After three decades of rapid uneven development, this plan articulates a path to urbanization that promotes sustainable ‘people-oriented development’. All of these issues come together in the case of Chongqing, a former prefecture-level city in Sichuan province. The government re-established Chongqing as a separate territory and new city’ at the province level in 1997, merging into the prefecture-level city that was Chongqing two other prefecture-level cities, Fuliang and Wanxian, and one prefecture, Qianjiang, creating an area comprised of multiple urban areas and a mountainous territory of rural and semi-rural counties. Figure 1. Chongqing is therefore similar to New York, New York, existing as both a city and the equivalent of a state in the U.S. system. The first international reports heralded Chongqing as ‘the largest city in the world’ because the population of the Chongqing administrative division is more than 30 million. However, with a land area (82,300 km2) twice the size of Switzerland (41,285 km2), it is not a city in any conventional sense. The government established Chongqing as an administrative city-region in relation to two large-scale developments: the reservoir area behind the Three Gorges Dam, and the ‘Open the West’ strategy (Hong, 2004). In this developmental context, Chongqing lies at the heart of a new urban system with medium and small cities governing multiple towns that anchor the urban hierarchy. This administrative complexity raises numerous questions about how meeting China’s plans for people-oriented development.
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