China’s specificities have given rise to unique development models while creating a multi-speed China. The clusters of cities are reaping economic development’s main benefits, but there are significant disparities between them. Let’s take a look at some data.
China’s size and its population concentrated in the east and center have led to specific urbanization and structuring of cities. A distinction is made between clusters of cities 城市群 defined as follows: a vast city group together at least three major cities in its immediate periphery, all linked by efficient communications and economic complementarities.
The twelve most essential clusters check the law of 80/20. They occupy 19% of the territory and generate 82% of the national GDP. When we look more closely, five significant groups stand out:
- Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei in the North
- The Yangtze Delta with Shanghai, the major cities of Zhejiang and Jiangsu
- The Middle Yangtze around Wuhan, Changsha, and Nanchang
- The Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province
- Cities around Chengdu and Chongqing
The east facade
The phenomenon accentuates geographical inequalities. They attract the most people, with huge cities seeing population arrivals and small towns seeing departures. Between clusters, the differences are also significant. While the Pearl River area recorded a population growth of 20% between 2006 and 2015, those of Beijing and Shanghai posted increases of 10%. The northeastern clusters -Harbin and Changchun- experienced declines. The movement of populations follows a southeast trend. In the North, there has been a decrease in population. Beijing, the capital, and its periphery are the exception. It has had to put restrictions in place to stem population growth, as has Shanghai. The map below for 2019 shows the population increases on the eastern side (the provinces in green), especially in the South with the provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang, which show positive balances of more than 800,000 people.
A reshuffling of the cards?
Competition remains strong between these various groups. Some cities have implemented measures to attract qualified personnel with, for example, allowances for engineers and students as in Hangzhou. Others, such as Shenzhen, do not need them. The weaker ones are still in danger of declining, especially since the U.S. trade war and the epidemic have put a strain on municipal finances. The financial media 第一财经 has surveyed 176 of China’s 330 largest cities. 60%, 102, have negative growth in government revenue over the first seven months of the year. Those oriented towards the future with the digital economy are doing well, while the North and its heavy industry are struggling more. Are we going to see a new distribution of cards?
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26 September 2020