Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2019, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (8): 1331-1345.doi: 10.1007/s11442-019-1662-6

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Urban shrinkage and growth: Measurement and determinants of economic resilience in the Pearl River Delta

DU Zhiwei1,2, ZHANG Hongou1,2, YE Yuyao1,2, JIN Lixia1,2, XU Qian1,2   

  1. 1. Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Guangzhou 510070, China
    2. Guangdong Open Laboratory of Geospatial Information Technology and Application, Guangzhou 510070, China
  • Received:2018-10-07 Accepted:2019-01-02 Online:2019-08-25 Published:2019-12-13
  • About author:Du Zhiwei (1987-), PhD, specialized in regional development and city planning, urban growth and shrinkage. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(No.41801122);GDAS’ Special Project of Science and Technology Development(No.2016GDASRC-0101);GDAS’ Special Project of Science and Technology Development(No.2018GDASCX-0901)


In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, China witnessed gradual shrinkage of cities in the Pearl River Delta (PRD). In this study, we introduce the concept of economic resilience to analyse urban growth and shrinkage in the context of a rapidly-urbanising region. Multiple regression analysis is performed to explore the determinants of economic resilience in the PRD. By measuring resistance in the shrinking phase and recoverability in the growing phase in a group of cities in the PRD, this study distinguishes four scenarios and investigates their characteristics from a spatial perspective. The results demonstrate that the financial crisis had a severe and asymmetric influence on this area, indicating more than 15% of cities are faced with shrinking. The spatial distribution of economic resilience indicates a centre-periphery pattern, that is, high economic resilience in the inner ring and low economic resilience in the outer ring of the PRD. The service economy is found to play a significant role in promoting urban economic resilience. Results imply that sound economic policies for enhancing resilience: both poor local financial status and a high degree of export concentration adversely impact resistance, while upgrading the manufacturing economy and stimulating of industrial innovation are conducive to improve recoverability.

Key words: economic resilience, urban shrinkage, global financial crisis, shock resistance, shock recoverability, Pearl River Delta