Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 1060-1082.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1770-3

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Mega-towns in China: Their spatial distribution features and growth mechanisms

WANG Xueqin1,2,3(), LIU Shenghe1,2,*(), QI Wei1,2   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2019-08-28 Accepted:2020-01-10 Online:2020-07-25 Published:2020-09-25
  • Contact: LIU Shenghe
  • About author:Wang Xueqin, PhD Candidate, specialized in urban geography and population geography. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA19040402);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41771180);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41661144023);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41701165)


As a special outcome of urbanization, mega-towns not only play an important role in the process of socio-economic development, but also are important contributors to urbanization. Based on a spatial database of mega-towns in China, this paper explores the spatial distribution features and growth mechanisms of China’s 238 mega-towns using the nearest neighbour distance method, kernel density estimation, regression analysis, global autocorrelation, local autocorrelation and other spatial analysis methods. Results of spatial distribution features show that: (1) on the national scale, the existing 238 mega-towns mainly gathered in the southeast coastal areas of China; they formed two spatial core agglomerations, several secondary ones and a southeast coastal agglomeration belt; (2) on the regional scale, each economic region’s index was less than 1, indicating that mega-towns in each region tended to be spatially agglomerated due to the close relationship with regional development level and their number; (3) on the provincial scale, 68% of provincial-level units in China tended to be a spatial agglomeration of mega-towns; only one province had a random distribution; the number of mega-towns in those evenly-distributed provinces was generally small. The growth of mega-towns was determined by a combination of various natural and humanistic factors, including topography, location, economy, population, traffic, and national policy. This paper chose digital elevation model (DEM), location advantage, economic density, population density, and highway density distribution as corresponding indicators as quantitative factors. By combining their local autocorrelation analysis, these factors all showed certain influence on the spatial growth of mega-towns and together scheduled it. In the future, provinces and cities should make full use of the mega-town functions to promote their socioeconomic development, especially the central and western regions in China.

Key words: mega-town, features, spatial distribution, growth mechanism, China