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Journal of Geographical Sciences    2015, Vol. 25 Issue (5) : 545-558     DOI: 10.1007/s11442-015-1186-7
Orginal Article |
Spatial differences and driving forces of land urbanization in China
Xueqin LIN1(),Yang WANG2,3,*(),Shaojian WANG4,5,Dai WANG4
1. College of Resources Environment and Tourism, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China
2. Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Guangzhou 510070, China
3. Guangdong Open Laboratory of Geospatial Information Technology and Application, Guangzhou 510070 China
4. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
5. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
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Land urbanization plays an important supporting and restriction role in the rapid and sustainable development of urbanization in China, and it shows distinctive spatial heterogeneity. Applying urban area as the basic research unit and urban construction land area as the core indicator, this paper establishes the conceptual framework and calculation method for the quantity and rate of land urbanization process. The study evaluates the spatial differentiation pattern of absolute and relative process of land urbanization in 658 cities in China from 2000 to 2010. The spatial distribution of cities with rapid land urbanization process is discussed, and the contribution rate and its spatial heterogeneity of major land use types are examined with the aid of GIS. The main conclusions are as follows: (1) Land urbanization in China shows a clear spatial difference. The greater the city scale, the faster its land urbanization. The cities with rapid land urbanization show a significant pattern of central distribution in coastal regions and a scattered distribution in the inland regions. (2) Over the last 10 years, the average quantity of land urbanization in the 656 cities was 3.82 km2, the quantity of land urbanization is differentiated by administrative grade. The average rate of land urbanization was 6.89%, obviously faster than the speed of population urbanization. The rate of land urbanization reveals a pattern of differentiation between coastal and other cities. (3) In the past 10 years, the two primary land use types associated with land urbanization in China are residential and industrial, with a combined contribution rate of 52.49%. The greater the scale of the city, the more significant the driving effect of industrial land. In small- and medium-scale cities of the western and central regions, the growth of residential land is the primary driver of land urbanization, while in coastal urban agglomerations and cities on important communication axes, the growth of industrial land is the main driver. (4) Overall, urban population agglomeration, industrial growth and investment are the three drivers of land urbanization in China, but cities of different scales have different drivers.

Keywords land urbanization      urban construction land      urban area      the driving force for land urbanization      China     
Fund:National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41401164, No.41430636;The Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.KZZD-EW-06
Corresponding Authors: Yang WANG     E-mail:;
Issue Date: 24 June 2015
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Cite this article:   
Xueqin LIN,Yang WANG,Shaojian WANG, et al. Spatial differences and driving forces of land urbanization in China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2015, 25(5): 545-558.
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Figure 1  Spatial evaluation of urban construction land scale in China in 2000 and 2010
Figure 2  Spatial pattern of land urbanization quantity in Chinese 656 cities (2000-2010)
of cities
Construction land area (km2) Average construction land area per city (km2/city) Average annual quantity of land urbanization per city(km2/year·city)
2000 2010 Increase
rate (%)
2000 2010
Provincial capital city 36 7010.85 15668.31 123.49 194.75 435.23 24.05
Prefecture-level cities 251 9982.79 19237.88 92.72 39.77 76.64 3.73
County-level cities 369 5416.87 8743.78 61.41 14.68 23.70 0.98
Table 1  Land urbanization quantity for different administrative grades cities in China in 2000 and 2010
Figure 4  BOX chart for land urbanization rate of coastal urban agglomerations and inland cities (2000-2010)
Figure 3  Spatial pattern of land urbanization rate in Chinese 656 cities (2000-2010)
Figure 5  Kernel density distribution of cities with rapid land urbanization in China (2000-2010)
Categories City scale Type of urban construction land
Public facilities Industrial Wareho-
External traffic Roads and squares Municipal public facilities Green Special purposes
of various
types of
land in
urban construction land in
2010 (%)
Small-scale cities 35.31 12.11 16.95 3.47 3.83 11.65 3.53 11.30 1.85
Medium-scale cities 33.07 12.29 18.72 3.33 4.31 11.52 3.72 11.30 1.74
Large-scale cities 30.97 12.38 22.13 3.05 4.43 11.43 3.25 10.66 1.71
Extraordinarily large-scale cities 29.62 11.86 24.27 2.64 4.49 12.28 3.58 8.95 2.31
Nationwide 31.20 12.15 21.86 2.99 4.39 11.77 3.49 10.21 1.95
of average
annual growth area 2000-
2010) (%)
Small-scale cities 30.81 14.66 14.76 -2.46 -1.94 22.04 3.62 19.85 -1.33
Medium-scale cities 31.46 12.76 18.20 0.95 2.10 15.35 3.55 15.12 0.51
Large-scale cities 31.41 14.07 19.67 1.13 2.40 15.48 2.97 12.62 0.26
Extraordinary large-scale cities 27.87 12.04 25.97 0.52 1.24 17.15 4.21 10.84 0.15
Nationwide 29.60 13.03 22.89 0.82 1.81 16.33 3.60 11.71 0.20
Table 2  Land-use structures in 2010 and land area growth structures since 2000 in various-scale cities in China
Figure 6  Contribution rate of residential and industrial land for land urbanization in China (2000-2010)
Categories Unstandardized coefficients Standard errors Standardized coefficients t Sig.
Undetermined coefficient (α0) 1.383 1.275 - 1.085 0.278
Population agglomeration 0.704 0.021 0.730 33.657 0.000
Industrial growth 0.033 0.010 0.098 3.327 0.001
Investment 0.045 0.006 0.175 7.155 0.000
Promotion of urban function 13.497 13.125 0.014 1.028 0.304
Table 3  The parameters of regression model of land urbanization based on four major factors in China
City scale R F Sig. Population
Industrial growth Investment Promotion of urban function
B Sig. B Sig. B Sig. B Sig.
Small-scale cities 0.401 8.331 0.000 0.188*** 0.000 0.011 0.353 0.005 0.613 5.587** 0.025
Medium-scale cities 0.504 22.587 0.000 0.357*** 0.000 0.013 0.146 0.025*** 0.009 -2.780 0.590
Large-scale cities 0.931 328.568 0.000 0.696*** 0.000 0.033* 0.068 0.038*** 0.001 41.415 0.333
Table 4  The parameters of regression model in various-scale cities in China
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