Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2019, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (11): 1908-1922.doi: 10.1007/s11442-019-1696-9

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Population distribution patterns and changes in China 1953-2010: A regionalization approach

LIU Cuiling, XU Yaping, WANG Fahui*()   

  1. Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University, LA 70803, USA
  • Received:2018-09-29 Accepted:2019-02-12 Online:2019-11-25 Published:2019-12-05
  • Contact: Fahui WANG
  • About author:Liu Cuiling, PhD, specialized in population modeling and urban planning. E-mail:


This study uses six censuses (1953, 1964, 1982, 1990, 2000, and 2010) at the county level since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China to examine the changes of population density pattern in mainland China over time. Based on the Gini coefficient, the change of disparity in population density followed a “U-shaped” trend, i.e., decreasing during 1953-1982 and increasing during 1982-2010. The shrinking disparity in the pre-reform periods was largely attributable to various ill-conceived political movements, and the enlarging gap in population growth rates in the post-reform era reflected a natural outcome of urbanization, which will continue in the foreseeable future. In addition, this research employs a GIS-automated regionalization method, REDCAP, to uncover a natural demarcation line like the classic “Hu Line” that divides China into two regions of similar area sizes but a strong contrast in population. The results show that the regionalization-derived lines were largely consistent with the Hu Line over time. Therefore, the disparity between the high-density southeast and low-density northwest regions is likely due to differing physical environments that form a natural barrier. Any public policy to overcome this barrier at a large scale is destined to be a vain attempt.

Key words: regional population distribution, temporal change, disparity, Gini coefficient, regionalization, GIS, Hu Line, China