Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (5): 724-742.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1752-5

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatio-temporal evolution and influencing factors of urban green development efficiency in China

ZHOU Liang1,2, ZHOU Chenghu2, CHE Lei3,*(), WANG Bao4   

  1. 1. Faculty of Geomatics, Lanzhou Jiaotong University, Lanzhou 730070, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China
    4. Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2020-01-05 Accepted:2020-02-17 Online:2020-05-25 Published:2020-07-25
  • Contact: CHE Lei
  • About author:Zhou Liang, PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in urban sustainable development. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41701173);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41961027);Foundation for the Excellent Youth Scholars of Ministry of Education of China(17YJCZH268)


To resolve conflicts between development and the preservation of the natural environment, enable economic transformation, and achieve the global sustainable development goals (SDGs), green development (GD) is gradually becoming a major strategy in the construction of an ecological civilization and the ideal of building a “beautiful China”, alongside the transformation and reconstruction of the global economy. Based on a combination of the concept and implications of GD, we first used the Slacks Based Model with undesirable outputs (SBM-Undesirable), the Theil index, and the spatial Markov chain to measure the spatial patterns, regional differences, and spatio-temporal evolution of urban green development efficiency (UGDE) in China from 2005 to 2015. Second, by coupling natural and human factors, the mechanism influencing UGDE was quantitatively investigated under the framework of the human-environment interaction. The results showed that: (1) from 2005 to 2015, the UGDE increased from 0.475 to 0.523, i.e., an overall increase of 10%. In terms of temporal variation, there was a staged increase, with its evolution having the characteristics of a “W-shaped” pattern. (2) The regional differences in UGDE followed a pattern of eastern > central > western. For different types of urban agglomeration, the UGDE had inverted pyramid cluster growth characteristics that followed a pattern of “national level > regional level > local level”, forming a stable hierarchical scale structure of “super cities > mega cities > big cities > medium cities > small cities”. (3) UGDE in China has developed with significant spatial agglomeration characteristics. High-efficiency type cities have positive spillover effects, while low-efficiency cities have negative effects. Different types of urban evolution processes have a path dependence, and a spatial club convergence phenomenon exists, in which areas with high UGDE are concentrated and drive low UGDE elsewhere. (4) Under the framework of regional human-environment interaction, the degree of human and social influence on UGDE is greater than that of the natural background. The economic strength, industrial structure, openness, and climate conditions of China have positively promoted UGDE.

Key words: green development, efficiency, green city, green economy, spatial scale, sustainable development goals (SDGs)