Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (2): 153-170.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1260-9

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A comprehensive assessment of urban vulnerability and its spatial differentiation in China

Chuanglin FANG1(), Yan *WANG1(), Jiawen FANG2   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2015-07-16 Accepted:2015-08-20 Online:2016-02-25 Published:2016-02-25
  • About author:

    Author: Fang Chuanglin (1966-), Professor, specialized in land use and resources & urban geography.E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Wang Yan (1984-), PhD, specialized in economic geography, and urban & regional planning.E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41371177


The urban vulnerability poses a serious challenge to achieving sustainable development. With the concentration of the population and the economy, cities must manage the higher frequencies and risks of various hazards and are becoming more vulnerable. Research on the assessment and regulatory control of urban vulnerability is of great significance for both urbanization quality improvement and sustainable development in China or other countries in the world. Because of the complexity of cities and vulnerability concepts, existing studies have focused on different aspects of urban vulnerability. And the research content of urban vulnerability is scattered and relatively independent, leading to a lack of comparability among the research data and resulting in tremendous difficulties in summarizing the conclusions through comparison of independent research data. Therefore the goal of this study was to construct urban vulnerability index (UVI) from the perspective of sustainable development that could assess urban vulnerability comprehensively. In this study, we selected 10 subindexes involving 36 specific parameters from four aspects (resources, eco-environmental systems, economics, and social development) to construct a comprehensive index system. We also established the standard values of measurements. Then we take 288 prefecture-level cities in China as a study area and evaluate its overall urban vulnerability and its spatial differentiation. Results indicate that urban vulnerability of China has a remarkable spatial differentiation of both “gradient distribution” and “clustered distribution”; the extent of urban vulnerability corresponds to city size, the bigger the city, the lower its vulnerability; resource-based cities are more vulnerable than comprehensive cities; a city’s economic growth rate does not reflect the extent of its urban vulnerability. Further, we offer a few suggestions to cope with urban vulnerability in China.

Key words: urban vulnerability, comprehensive assessment, spatial differentiation, sustainable development, China