Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (12): 1793-1809.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1579-5

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Hierarchy, clusters, and spatial differences in Chinese inter-city networks constructed by scientific collaborators

Haitao MA1(), Chuanglin FANG1, Sainan LIN2, Xiaodong HUANG3, Chengdong XU1   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. School of Urban Design, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
    3. Key Research Institute of Yellow River Civilization and Sustainable Development, Henan University, Kaifeng 475001, Henan, China
  • Received:2017-09-17 Accepted:2018-01-10 Online:2018-12-20 Published:2018-12-20
  • About author:

    Author: Ma Haitao (1979-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in urban network and innovation. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41571151, No.41590842, No.71433008


The Chinese urban system is currently experiencing a fundamental shift, as it moves from a size-based hierarchy to a network-based system. Contemporary studies of city networks have tended to focus on economic interactions without paying sufficient attention to the issue of knowledge flow. Using data on co-authored papers obtained from China Academic Journal Network Publishing Database (CAJNPD) during 2014-2016, this study explores several features of the scientific collaboration network between Chinese mainland cities. The study concludes that: (1) the spatial organization of scientific cooperation amongst Chinese cities is shifting from a jurisdiction-based hierarchical system to a networked system; and (2) several highly intra-connected city regions were found to exist in the network of knowledge, and such regions had more average internal linkages (14.21) than external linkages (8.69), and higher average internal linkage degrees (14.43) than external linkage degrees (10.43); and (3) differences existed in terms of inter-region connectivity between the Western, Eastern, and Central China regional networks (the average INCD of the three regional networks were 109.65, 95.81, and 71.88). We suggest that China should engage in the development of regional and sub-regional scientific centers to achieve the goal of building an innovative country. Whilst findings reveal a high degree of concentration in those networks - a characteristic which reflects the hierarchical nature of China’s urban economic structure - the actual spatial distribution of city networks of knowledge flow was found to be different from that of city networks based on economic outputs or population.

Key words: Chinese city networks, knowledge flows, scientific collaboration, co-authored papers, knowledge city clusters, China academic journal, innovative country, regional differences