Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2019, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (10): 1731-1757.doi: 10.1007/s11442-019-1688-9

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Evolution of transportation in China since reform
and opening up: Patterns and principles

JIN Fengjun1, CHEN Zhuo1,2,3   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2019-02-12 Accepted:2019-04-08 Online:2019-10-25 Published:2019-12-09
  • About author:Jin Fengjun (1961-), Professor, specialized in transport geography and regional development studies. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(No.41771134);Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(No.XDA19040403)


This paper reviews the process of transportation construction in China and investigates the developmental and spatial characteristics of transportation patterns. The principles of transportation evolution including stages, structures and orders are systematically analyzed. The investigation shows that China’s transportation construction mode has upgraded from investment-driven scale expansion to quality improvement driven by efficiency and promotion. The rapid growth and development of transportation networks has significantly influenced economic and social activities in time and space. The resulting spatial convergence and dominance have improved distribution, promoting development of the socioeconomic structure. Regional development that has traditionally been based on corridors has changed into a networked mode centered on cities and metropolitan areas. The transportation pattern follows evolutionary principles. China has been moving from a hierarchical structure to a cascade structure. Simultaneously, the socioeconomic pattern has changed from an axis to a hub-and-spoke structure with a preliminary ordered network. As transportation networks grow, China’s functional spatial structure and ordered network will gradually become stabilized and balanced.

Key words: transportation geography pattern, spatial effect, spatial order, evolutionary principle, China