Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2015, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (8): 1003-1024.doi: 10.1007/s11442-015-1216-5

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles    

Important progress and future direction of studies on China’s urban agglomerations

Chuanglin FANG()   

  1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2014-12-20 Accepted:2015-02-08 Online:2015-08-15 Published:2015-07-17
  • About author:

    Author: Fang Chuanglin, Professor, specialized in urban development and planning.

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41371177, No.71433008;National Social Science Foundation of China, No.13&ZD027


Urban agglomerations are an inevitable outcome of China’s new national industrialization and urbanization reaching relatively advanced stages of development over the past 30 years. In the early 2000s, urban agglomerations became new geographical units for participating in global competition and the international division of labor, and China has spent the past decade promoting them as the main spaces for pushing forward its new form of urbanization. The convening of the first Central Work Conference on Urbanization and the National New-type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020) further defined the status of urban agglomerations as the main players in promoting China’s new type of national urbanization. Nevertheless, urban agglomerations remain a weak link in Chinese academia and are in urgent need of study. Only 19 articles on the theme of urban agglomerations were published in the journal Acta Geographica Sinica between 1934 and 2013, accounting for only 0.55% of all articles written during that period. Not only are there very few, they have also all been published within a relatively short period of time, with the first having been published only 10 years ago. The studies are also concentrated among only a few authors and institutions, and research is aimed at national requirements but is rather divergent. Even so, some studies on urban agglomerations have played a leading role and made important contributions to dictating the overall formation of urban agglomerations nationwide. Specifically, a proposed spatial pattern for urban agglomerations formed the basic framework for the spatial structure of China’s urban agglomerations and guided the government to make urban agglomerations the main urban pattern when promoting the new type of urbanization; proposed standards and technologies for identifying the spatial dimensions of urban agglomerations played an important role in defining the scope of national urban agglomerations; a series of studies in the area of urban agglomerations spurred more in-depth and practical studies in the field; and studies on issues related to the formation and growth of urban agglomerations provided warnings on the future selection and development of urban agglomerations. Taking the progress and results of these studies as a foundation, the foci of selecting and developing urban agglomerations in China are as follows: to be problem-oriented and profoundly reflect on and review new problems exposed in the selection and development of urban agglomerations; to concentrate on urban agglomerations and lay importance on the formation of a new “5+9+6” spatial structure for China’s urban agglomerations; to rely on urban agglomerations and promote the formation of a new pattern of national urbanization along the main axes highlighted by urban agglomerations; to be guided by national strategic demand and continue to deepen understanding of major scientific issues in the course of the formation and development of urban agglomerations, including studying the resource and environmental effects of high-density urban agglomerations, scientifically examining resource and environmental carrying capacities of high-density urban agglomerations, creating new management systems and government coordination mechanisms for the formation and development of urban agglomerations, studying the establishment of public finance systems and public finance reserve mechanisms for urban agglomerations, and studying and formulating technical specifications for urban agglomeration planning and standards for delineating urban agglomeration boundaries.

Key words: urban agglomeration, research progress, existing problem, spatial pattern, development direction, China