Orginal Article

How Chinese Human Geographers Influence Decision Makers and Society Acadimic Information

  • Fan Jie

Online published: 2016-12-20


Journal of Geographical Sciences, All Rights Reserved

Cite this article

Fan Jie . How Chinese Human Geographers Influence Decision Makers and Society Acadimic Information[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2016 , 26(12) : 1792 -1794 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-016-1359-z

Book Review I

Human geography does matter! It is about the quality of our life because it contributes to spatial organization of society, regional and urban planning, social justice, improved accessibility to different places and public services. Human geography is closely connected with the technical progress of ICT processing and, most importantly, analysis and synthesis of a huge amount of data. But in many countries there remain gaps between the academy, government and civil society.
On this background, the historical experience of Chinese human geography represents a particular interest because it has always been closely related with practice. Everybody knows that this country has tremendously changed within a very short historical period. Of course, it provoked deep transformations in its territorial structure and patterns, the mobility and the way of life, etc. In the present book leading Chinese human geographers tell about the contribution of this discipline to China’s development and modernisation.
They selected seven major themes, seven success stories about the interdependence between human geography and the practice of spatial planning: agricultural zoning emerged in the 1950s and the 1960s, urban planning and tourism industry since the 1970s and 1980s, the land use study and Pole-Axis system theory that were focused in the 1980s and 1990s, and the research on, and implementation of, major function oriented zoning and resources and environmental carrying capacity in the 21st century. The authors start with explaining social needs in studying these themes and describing the situation in each seven field in the respective period and then switch to the theoretical approaches and practical recommendations suggested by human geographers.
They pay a particular attention to urban planning which incorporated in China urban geography and is the fastest growing sub-discipline. Its review is of great interest considering the rates and the scale of urbanization in the country where dozens of million people moved to the cities within a very short historical period. Urban planning is closely related with geography of tourisme which largely contributed to the transformation of China in one of the world major tourist destinations. I would also like to notice the conclusive chapter containing a fascinating analysis of Chinese schools and the perspectives of human geography.
The monograph is the unique source of information about the state of Chinese human geography, its theoretical paradigms, and major subjects during the last 70 years and their strong relation with practical needs. The authors draw fascinating perspectives of the discipline in their country. The book will become a discovery for a foreign reader!
Vladimir Kolosov, Co-chair of Scientific Committee of 33rd International Geographical Congress, President of the International Geographical Union, Corresponding Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Book Review II

How Chinese Human Geographers Influence Decision Makers and Society presents seven case studies “aimed, first and foremost, at foreign geography scholars, especially foreign human geography scholars, in the hope that they will learn the characteristics of Chinese human geography development.” China and its governments devote more attention to geographical research in their development planning than any other major country on the planet. The volume’s case studies—on agricultural zoning, urban planning, tourism, land use, Pole-Axis system theory, major function oriented zoning and resources and environmental carrying capacity—explain how Chinese human geographers attracted the national government’s attention to their research and the effects of that research on China’s development planning, as well as the recursive consequences of government support on the ongoing evolution of Chinese geographical research.
In addition to the deep understanding of major development processes offered by several leaders of modern Chinese geography, a key to understanding the attraction of geographical research for government officials and planners is the degree to which Chinese geographers devoted their efforts directly on the real substantive dilemmas facing China in the 1950s and thereafter. In an era in which much published geographical research focuses as much on geography’s internal philosophical and methodological conversations as on its contributions to resolving the grand challenges humankind faces, Chinese Human Geographers is a refreshing reminder that our expertise should be applied first and foremost to meeting basic human needs. In short, real contributions to solving socio-economic problems should overshadow methodological debates, as it indeed has in the research summarized in this volume.
In that respect, the original post WWII and post-Cultural Revolution focus on agricultural inventories and zoning was an ideal topic for engaging the interest of government officials, agencies, and planners. As an inherently human-ecological enterprise, the subject of agriculture and its domestic geography robustly demonstrated the integrated and interdisciplinary power of geography, and especially geography’s traditional attention to the interplay of natural and human systems, the perspective that has more recently been characterized as “coupled systems.” In agriculture as with the other geographical research results that have been incorporated into Chinese government policies and planning, such contributions have opened channels for acquainting officials at the highest levels with such cutting edge ideas as coevolution and sustainable development. Looking toward the future, the volume’s editor foresees human geography research that will continue to serve the needs of government officials in the broader context of the comprehensive ISCU-ISSC Future Earth initiative and within the broader framework of Earth Systems Science.
Placing the needs of government decision makers for sound empirical foundations for their policies, plans, and project as major forces shaping geographical research might be met with skepticism or outright distaste in some parts of the world. Yet the scale and the complexity of the challenges of meeting basic human needs in a country as populous and economically and culturally diverse as China appear to me to warrant appreciation for the pathways Chinese human geographers have chosen to follow. The examples highlighted in How Chinese Human Geographers Influence Decision Makers and Society offer useful lessons for geographers and kindred specialists in other countries (especially my own) who wish their discipline had more influence and greater prestige then it currently possesses, a country where a strident but powerful minority of elected and appointed officials continues to deny and even ridicule the evidence of anthropogenic global climate change.
How Chinese Human Geographers Influence Decision Makers and Society is a landmark statement of the power of human geography that should stand as an example of good practice for countries around the world. The volume was prepared under the direction of Professor Fan Jie as a gift to all the delegates who attended the August 2016 International Geographical Congress in Beijing. The book can and should be read more widely as an example of what can be accomplished when sound geographical research is shaped by giving government officials and agencies trenchant information and analysis, that is, when geography is practiced as the science that guides the arts of policy making and planning.
Ronald F Abler, Past President of the International Geographical Union, Professor of the Pennsylvania State University of the USA

Book Information

The Commercial Press, 2016, 417 pp., ISBN 978-7-100-12420-1(paperback), CHY 68.00
Li Juan, E-mail:

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.