Research Articles

Post-suburbanization in Qingpu New Town: Process and formation mechanism

  • WANG Shaobo , 1 ,
  • LUO Xiaolong , 2, * ,
  • TANG Mi 3
  • 1. Institute of County Economic Development, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 2. School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China
  • 3. High-Quality Development Evaluation Institute, Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Nanjing 210003, China
*Luo Xiaolong (1977-), Professor, E-mail:

Wang Shaobo (1990-), PhD and Lecturer, specialized in economic geography and urban geography. E-mail:

Received date: 2022-05-21

  Accepted date: 2023-03-24

  Online published: 2023-07-24

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China(42101160)

Science-Technology Foundation for Young Scientist of Gansu Province(21JR7RA523)


Under the wave of globalization, some cities in China, especially the so-called “megacities” are entering or have already entered the stage of post-suburbanization. The study places Shanghai suburbs in the post-suburbanization landscape and takes Qingpu New Town as an example to systematically analyze the development and formation mechanism of post-suburbanization spaces. This study reveals the features of the post-suburbanization in China as follows. Firstly, In China, post-suburbanization is achieved based on industrialization as well as on the promotion of urbanization. Although urbanization has strengthened other functions of suburban spaces aside from living and production, the production attributes of suburbs remain stable. Secondly, post-suburbanization space with the new town as the development model is an important path for a new round of suburban space growth, it has expanded the space for capital accumulation in metropolitan areas, thus promoting the possibility of reorganizing economic activities within metropolitan areas. At the same time, it focuses on the integration of industries and cities, and the simultaneous development of urbanization and industrialization. In turn, this promotes the accumulation of capital centered on the urban environment and manufacturing production. Furthermore, China’s special institutional circumstance enables its government to organize various actors to form a growth alliance, which will act together in the production of post-suburbanization space.

Cite this article

WANG Shaobo , LUO Xiaolong , TANG Mi . Post-suburbanization in Qingpu New Town: Process and formation mechanism[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2023 , 33(7) : 1461 -1481 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-023-2138-2

1 Introduction

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, suburban development has gone through three stages: industrial zone, industrial satellite town; development zone, high-tech zone; and new towns (Zhou and Ma, 2000; Wu, 2014; Shen and Wu, 2016). Compared to the previous development model, new town construction that started after 2000 tend to be the construction of comprehensive functional spaces and their relative independence in regional development (Wang et al., 2018). With the agglomeration of elements in suburban spaces, urban spaces are rapidly expanding to the suburbs, resulting in the simultaneous development of urban fringe areas as well. In this context, the Los Angeles School and the emerging theory of “global urbanization” both focus on the suburbs and regard the new round of suburban development as a kind of urban revolution (Shen and Wu, 2013).
For metropolitan areas with better economic foundations, the space for urban development has expanded to the outer suburbs. Due to the rapid rise of these outer suburbs, traditional suburbanization theory is rendered unable to explain well the characteristics of the new stage of urban development. At the same time, the geographical landscape has changed significantly due to the transformation of the post-Fordist social and economic structure, along with the agglomeration of population, industry, commerce, and other elements in suburban spaces (Duan and Ding, 2017). New spatial settlement forms began to appear in the outer suburbs, such as “edge city” (Nick, 1998; Bontje and Burdack, 2005) “edgeless city” (Robert, 2003; Hu et al., 2016) “technoburbs” (Hudalah and Firman, 2012) and “global suburbs” have been launched one after another. To better distinguish the new urbanization phenomenon, Western scholars—represented by Europe and the United States—call this phenomenon “post-suburbanization” (Charmes and Keil, 2015).
Post-suburbanization is a common form of global urbanization development. However, current research on post-suburbanization is based primarily on European and American cities (Phelps and Wood, 2011; Charmes and Keil, 2015), but the formation and forms of post-suburbanization vary in different countries and regions. China and India are typical representatives of emerging developing countries. The unprecedented scale and form of their suburban development in recent years characterize their post-suburbanization development with remarkable particularity. However, existing research in China has only analyzed the spatial distribution and redistribution pattern of several factors, such as population, transportation, and industry, through certain quantitative methods (You and Yang, 2017; Wang and Xue, 2018). Furthermore, there is a dearth of systematic research on the phenomenon of post-suburbanization in the context of the new stage. Thus, this paper takes one of the developed new towns—Qingpu New Town in Shanghai as an example to analyze the formation process and driving mechanism of post-suburbanization spaces.
This research aims to achieve the following academic values: First, from the perspective of post-suburbanization theory, it examines the new characteristics of the suburban spatial growth in China, so as to achieve dialogue and response to traditional suburbanization theory. Second, unlike Western countries, suburban spatial expansion in China represents an obvious “government-led, market-participatory” system; whose characteristics, once clarified can supplement and expand our understanding of post-suburbanization in China and to post-suburbanization theory.
Conceptual framework of the article is shown in Figure 1: The second chapter is the theoretical reconstruction of traditional suburbanization by post-suburbanization. This chapter mainly explains the characteristics of post-suburbanization, which is considered as the criteria for judging whether post-suburbanization occurs in Qingpu New Town. The third chapter is mainly about research area and data sources. The fourth chapter is the formation process of post-suburbanization space. The fifth chapter is the formation mechanism of post- suburbanization space. The sixth chapter is the comparison of post-suburbanization between China and the West based on empirical analysis. The seventh chapter is the conclusions and discussion.
Figure 1 Conceptual framework diagram

2 Theoretical reconstruction of traditional suburbanization by post-suburbanization

Due to the diversity in research on post-suburbanization, along with the complexity and uncertainty of the suburbs themselves, the academic understanding of the connotation of post-suburbanization, which has shifted from space utilization to a multi-dimensional perspective, is also changing. In the 1970s, the development of residential, industrial, and commercial suburbanization further triggered the migration of many elements into suburbs. Shopping centers, entertainment venues, etc., appeared in suburban spaces. Many suburbs in North America, for example, gradually developed into new regional spaces with mixed functions. Massotti called this phenomenon “post-suburbanization”, thereby introducing the concept into the literature (Adams and Fleeter, 1996; Phelps and Wood, 2011). Teaford, on the other hand, believes that the emergence of mixed-use spaces in the suburbs is only the beginning of post-suburbanization (Teaford, 1997; Mac, 2011). On the basis of their research on Richmond in the United States, Lucy and Philips (1997) found that suburbs began to show a rising and falling pattern, along with the characteristics of suburban decline and rapid development of outer suburbs. Simultaneously, with the flow of elements between the suburbs and the central urban areas, urban functions are further reorganized in the entire urban space, thereby presenting a pattern in which agglomeration and dispersion coexist. Dispersion is reflected in the construction of multi-center structures in suburban development, while agglomeration is reflected in the formation of suburban sub-centers (Fishman, 1987). In addition, agglomeration areas that are more independent, as these are based on comprehensive functional spaces rather than residences. Owing to their perfection and independence of functions, they are said to acquire urban characteristics. Scholars call this phenomenon “post-suburbanization”, and over the years this concept has gradually become a more recognized definition. Overall, the development of post-suburbanization is a process of spatial dynamics featuring temporal and spatial dimensions, which are two important attributes of the post-suburbanization.
Time dimension is mainly relative to traditional suburbanization. In 1982, Peter Hall divided urban spatial growth into six stages: the concentration period in the loss, the absolute concentration period, the relative concentration period, the relative dispersion period, the regional absolute dispersion period, and the dispersion period in the loss (Peter, 1992; Scheider and Woodcock, 2014). Later, based on the different influences of centripetal, centrifugal, and frictional forces in the process of urban space growth, some scholars divided it into stages, including highly agglomerated development, rapid urban expansion, population suburbanization, industrial suburbanization, suburban diversification, and network internationalization (Scheider and Woodcock, 2014). Other scholars, meanwhile, have divided urban spatial growth into five stages: pre-urbanization, urbanization, suburbanization, anti-urbanization, and re-urbanization. On the whole, post-suburbanization is a development stage in the process of suburbanization and is a new spatial settlement that forms after the centrifugal and scattered development of multiple elements (Zhou, 2015; Wang and Luo, 2022).
Spatial dimension can be reflected by distinct characteristics, such as spatial distribution, spatial utilization, spatial relationship, and spatial governance model. Using the attributes of post-suburbanization, this research constructs a conceptual model of post-suburbanization. From the perspective of space utilization (Carr and Mcdonough, 2016; Stefano and Luca, 2019), compared with traditional suburbanization, post-suburbanization space is no longer a sleeping city where production and living spaces are simply combined (Tong et al., 2019; Long et al., 2020), but employs a space utilization pattern with a higher degree of mixed space utilization or even disharmony (Nick and Wu, 2011; Phelps and Wood, 2011; Hudalah and Firman, 2012; Qin et al., 2020). From the perspective of spatial variation (Carr and Mcdonough, 2016; Hu et al., 2016; Gu et al., 2019), traditional suburbanization is mainly concentrated in the peripheral areas or suburbs of the central urban area (Shen, 2016; Yan et al., 2017). However post-suburbanization is more inclined toward the outer suburbs, especially at the important transportation hubs in the outer suburbs, such as highways or the intersections of major traffic roads (Delik and Tommy, 2012). From the perspective of spatial structure, during the early stage of suburbanization, the central city has always been an important commercial, economic, cultural, and political center of the city and has a simple urban-rural dual structure with the suburbs (Wu and Shen, 2015; Shen, 2016). In the post-suburbanization period, central urban area is no longer the only growth pole supporting the development of the entire city, the multi-center, multi-axis-networked spatial structure has gradually formed (Lin and Yi, 2010; Phelps and Wood, 2011; Charmes and Keil, 2015). From a governance perspective, compared to traditional suburbanization, post-suburbanization space often spans different administrative regions without strict administrative boundaries. However, its development is still influenced by the shadow government (Jenny, 2017), which influences regional development by implanting urban or national development goals into post-suburbanization spaces.
Furthermore, post-suburbanization also has obvious differences in economic structure, community composition, and urban landscape. For example, the urban economic structure in the post-suburbanization period presents obvious new economic characteristics which emphasize the development of knowledge, technology, innovative industries, as well as the degree of openness shown by industries (Delik and Tommy, 2012; Duan et al., 2016); the emergence of different groups in the outer suburbs results in more complex groups of community residents (Liu and Zhou, 2017; Azhdari et al., 2018; Stefanoand Luca, 2019; Tong et al., 2019); urban landscape blurs the boundaries between suburbs and cities (Zhou, 2015).
Overall, post-suburbanization is a phenomenon that occurs when suburbanization develops to a certain stage. Compared to traditional suburbanization, the formation of post-suburbanization is more complex. At the same time, post-suburbanization is a new trend in the development of metropolitan areas following suburbanization. It is a new spatial settlement born from the urbanization process based on the suburbs—one that is expected to undergo subtle changes with the continuous development of urban areas.
In conclusion, the phenomenon of post-suburbanization has been widespread in western nations, demonstrating the influence of capital, society, and government on suburbanization and the relationship between the center and the periphery. As the representation of capital and social forces, flowing economic and social elements in the context of globalization undoubtedly prompt space production in post-suburbanization. Further, the government constantly acts as a mediator in the conflict over space production for the sake of space equality. Although China is not a capitalist society led by capital and social factors, the local governments in China still have set about utilizing the capital factors and reshaping the suburban space in the context of regionalization. The spillover of factors from central cities continues to flow and weaken administrative barriers, which has resulted in the gradual rise of suburbs in recent years. As a result, both in China and the West, there are a variety of factors that contribute to post-suburbanization, and the spatial effects of this phenomenon are also strikingly similar. To put it another way, the spatial production of post-suburbanization can be used to demonstrate the trajectory of post-suburbanization in China.

3 Research area and research methodology

The above theoretical framework aims to demonstrate how the capital elements in new towns alter the way and thus how the space is produced during the post-suburbanization phase, which results in functional and spatial rescaling in China’s suburbs. In order to further explore the spatial characteristics of suburban new towns, we selected Qingpu New Town in the Shanghai metropolitan area as the research case. It is situated in the southwest suburbs and has a typical core-periphery relationship with the city center. It has also been regarded as a significant gateway for Shanghai to exchange economic resources and labor resources with the interior regions of China. With the deepening of Shanghai’s suburbanization strategy and continuous spillover flows moving from the center, Qingpu New Town has grown westward in the outer suburb and transformed into a significant transportation hub and industrial platform in the Shanghai metropolitan area. Inside the nodes, Qingpu New Town, is gradually improved with the migration of elements, initially developing into an individual city with various functions including residence, employment, and tourism, showing characteristics of an edge city. As a result, it has emerged as a key hub for post-suburbanization in Shanghai and demonstrated the typical trends in space production and transformation associated with this phenomenon across China.
In the research, major events or project constructions are sorted out from the previous master plans of Shanghai and the previous master plans of Qingpu New Town. Some data are obtained from the Shanghai Statistical Yearbook; Qingpu District Statistical Yearbook; data of China’s Fifth Population Census; data of China’s Seventh Population Census. Land use data comes from the Resource Environment and Data Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (
It should be noted that the study takes Qingpu New Town as the research object is mainly based on the following considerations: on the one hand, post-suburbanization, as a mature stage of suburban development, mainly occurs in cities with relatively mature economic development, while Shanghai, as a city with the strongest development in China after the reform and opening up in 1978, provides a case for this paper. On the other hand, with the transformation of suburban development models such as industrial satellite towns, development zones and new towns, new town development model pays more attention to the creation of comprehensive functions such as production, life and consumption, and its development model is more consistent with the concept of post-suburbanization. In addition, Shanghai currently includes five new towns, namely Jiading, Songjiang, Qingpu, Fengxian and Nanhui. Compared with the other new towns, Fengxian and Nanhui are relatively immature. Jiading and Songjiang grow up mainly by relying on industrial and technological elements, and only the development model of Qingpu New Town is more universal in China. Taking Qingpu New Town as the research object, the research conclusion of post-suburbanization will be more universal.

4 Analysis of post-suburbanization space production

The pursuit of rural life by the middle class is an important driving force in the formation of large-scale suburbanization in the West (Phelps and Wood, 2011; Wu and Zhang, 2022). In particular, post-suburbanization in the West is the reshaping of suburban functional spaces based on the need for economic activities. In comparison, the formation of post-suburbanization in China is achieved based on industrialization (Shen, 2016). The process can be roughly divided into three stages.
It should be noted that this paper analyzes the development process and driving mechanism of post-suburbanization space based on the theory of production of space. The applicability of the theory of production of space in post-suburbanization is mainly reflected in the following aspects: First, the space production process of multiple elements is the most direct embodiment of the formation of post-suburbanization space; Second, the theory is mainly
based on Lefebvre’s space ternary theory, which believes that capital, authorities and classes are important elements and forces to reshape space (Brueckner, 2000; Jiang et al., 2016). Power is the core element in space production, and space construction is formed after power operation. Capital circulation is an important link of space production and reproduction (Jing et al., 2016; Mai et al., 2021). The essence of space production is the virtuous circle of capital appreciation, investment, reappreciation and reinvestment after entering space. In addition, the integration of capital and power has improved the development environment of space, providing the basic conditions for different stratum groups to gather in space, and the entry of different strata also reconstructs the reproduction of space. From the above analysis, it can be seen that the theory can provide a good means to comprehensively analyze the role of multiple subjects in the process of post-suburbanization in China.

4.1 Phase 1: Production of industrial spaces

Historically speaking, Qingpu is a typical “water town” in the south of the Yangtze River. Before the 1970s, Qingpu’s economic activities were mainly based on agriculture and aquaculture, with a weak foundation for industrial development. Owing to its weak industrial base, Qingpu implemented industrial construction by reserving space in the early stage of urban construction. For example, in the “Qingpu District Master Plan” in 1994, “China Textile City” was built into a high-tech development zone with the Shangda river as the boundary. A municipal-level industrial park was planned to be established on the north side of Shangda River. In 1995, the Shanghai municipal government officially upgraded Qingpu Industrial Park to a municipal-level industrial park, and Qingpu industry began to enter a period of development. During this period, Qingpu District expanded its industrial production space by actively promoting the construction of the China Textile City and municipal industrial park.
However, during this period, the development intensity of suburban space was relatively low (Figure 2), and the interaction and mutual support among the plates (Qingpu Town, Zhujiajiao, Qingpu Industrial Park) were relatively insufficient. From the perspective of spatial structure, Qingpu District mainly presents an obvious dual-core spatial structure, forming a gathering point with Qingpu Town and Zhujiajiao as the center and sub-center, respectively. At the same time, from the actual land use, Qingpu, which has long been based on agriculture, is mainly used for residential land, and only a small amount of industrial land is scattered in and around Qingpu Town.
Figure 2 Land use of Qingpu District in 2000

4.2 Phase 2: Production of functional spaces (living and consumption)

After 2000, Shanghai entered a new town construction period, and the municipal government made strategic adjustments to build the Qingpu New Town, thus marking the start of a development period driven by both industrialization and urbanization. In 2003, the “Shanghai Qingpu New Town Urban Master Plan (2003-2020)” was approved by the municipal government, with a plan to build an edge city consisting of Qingpu Town, Zhujiajiao, Qingpu Industrial Park. To guide the urbanization of the new town and realize the agglomeration of living, consumption, public services, and other elements, the government promoted the development and construction of the Qingpu New Town space through the construction of public infrastructure. On the one hand, the relocation of public management and service departments, such as the district government building and the district procuratorate, to the new town space played an obvious guiding role in the westward expansion of Qingpu’s urban area. On the other hand, relying on the main public axes, such as the Tongsan national road, the government constructed functional spaces, such as residence, leisure, tourism, and commerce, and guided the filling of relevant urban functions in the new town space. At the same time, the district government focused on building a new urban area through the construction of museums, district libraries, district disease control centers, and district schools, with “Xiayang Lake” as the core. Under the guidance of the planning, projects such as civic centers were successively completed. Zhujiajiao also began to take shape. By 2008, Qingpu New Town gradually evolved into a spatial form with a medium-sized urban scale. During this period, a large number of multi-functional spaces, such as living, consumption, leisure, and commerce, were created, and the new town space was greatly expanded with functions that were more complex and diverse.

4.3 Phase 3: Production of industry-city integration space

After 2010, Qingpu New Town further enhanced its industrial carrying capacity and comprehensive service capabilities. To better promote the development of Qingpu New Town, the government revised the general plan. On the one hand, the new town space continues to expand westward, extending to the east bank of Dianshan Lake; on the other hand, the industrial park located on the north side of the new town was directly included in the new round, boosting the formation of an integrated pattern of industry and city. During this period, judging from the characteristics of suburban space utilization, growth rate, space governance, and spatial relationship, current space typically represented by Qingpu New Town shows obvious post-suburbanization attributes.
From the perspective of land use (Figure 3), old Qingpu Town, Zhujiajiao, Qingpu Industrial Park support one another. With the emergence of the pattern of industry-city integration, production, residence, public service and management, tourism, and commercial space are intricately distributed throughout Qingpu New Town, which makes it gradually take on an urban form with comprehensive functions, such as production, employment, commerce, and services, thereby acquiring the characteristics of an independent quasi-city body. At the same time, the growth rate of the population size and GDP of Qingpu District generally exceeded the evaluation level of Shanghai (Shen and Wu, 2016), which shows that the outer suburbs have gradually developed into an important growth pole for Shanghai’s space growth. Qingpu New Town has also become one of the important places for industrial transfer and population outflow in the central urban area. On the one hand, to solve the problems of tight land use in the central urban area and the chaotic and extensive development of industrial space, Shanghai has adopted a series of policies of adjusting and relocating industries and concentrating factories in parks. As one of the key municipal parks in Shanghai, Qingpu New Town Industrial Park has obvious advantages in undertaking industrial transfer. On the other hand, the development and construction of diversified commercial housing also meet the needs of some middle classes (white-collar workers, technical talents) in the central urban area to a certain extent. In this way, Qingpu New Town has thus become an important area to absorb the inflow of population from the central urban area. Central urban area is no longer the only growth pole supporting the development of the entire city. Instead, from this, the spatial structure of sub-centers in the outer suburbs, such as Qingpu New Town, is gradually formed.
Figure 3 Land use of Qingpu District in 2020
From the perspective of spatial governance mode, space governance shows obvious shadow government influence. In terms of spatial layout, it spans Zhujiajiao town, Qingpu Industrial Park management committee, Yingpu Community and Xiayang Community, etc. The boundary of the new town presents a certain feature of inter-jurisdiction. At the same time, in the administrative divisions in China, the administrative boundary attribute of the new town is not involved, which make it relatively invisible in space. At the same time, the development-oriented post-suburbanization space construction in China has promoted the emergence of multiple governance entities. At present, the spatial governance of Qingpu New Town mainly involves three modes, and one of these is the market-oriented operation mode of urban investment companies under the leadership of the government. The government often participates in the development and construction of a new town through the urban investment and development companies as the main investor, such as new town construction company, Dianshan lake new town company and Zhujiajiao investment company. The second mode is the industrial park management committee escrow. Such as Dianshan lake new town development and construction management committee was established in 2012. In addition, the administrative area management mode is also taken into account in the post-suburbanization space governance. Among them, Qingpu New Town is not only under the direct leadership of the Qingpu District government in terms of administrative services, but also under the multiple jurisdictions of Yingpu Community and Xiayang Community.
On the whole, the construction of new town has brought suburban development into the fast lane, and the agglomeration of multiple elements has made the suburban space more complex and diverse, and under the concentration of functional elements, functional spaces such as suburban space production, residence, public service and management, tourism, and commerce have begun to be intricately distributed in the suburbs, which can basically meet the needs of their own production, life and consumption, and the trend of independent development has basically emerged. At the same time, the development speed of suburban new towns gradually exceeds that of the central urban area, and gradually becomes a new employment, consumption, leisure and other sub-centers in Shanghai, becoming a sub-regional node city in the urban network system, and the radiation capacity is significantly enhanced.

5 Formation mechanism of post-suburbanization space under the logic of power-capital-social stratum

Post-suburbanization is formed by the joint participation of the government, developers, enterprises, and residents in the development of urban spaces. In Western countries, under the market-dominated and limited government intervention system, the growth alliance formed by the public sector and enterprises plays an important role in the formation of post-suburbanization spaces. However, China’s government-led institutional circumstance enables the government to organize various forces to form a new growth alliance, which, in turn, acts on the post-suburbanization space production.

5.1 Shaping of suburban space by power

5.1.1 Spatial re-positioning

Urban planning is an important tool used by the government to conceive space, and under the leadership of state and local authorities, this process is often guided by government politics and ideology. Governments often design spaces based on a series of plans and strategies. The acceleration of the space production process of Qingpu New Town has a lot to do with the government’s repositioning of its space through urban planning.
As shown in Table 1, before 2000, Qingpu’s development was mainly based on agricultural production and had a weak industrial foundation. Thus, it was considered an ordinary agricultural county in Shanghai and received little policy support and attention from the Shanghai government. As for a group of suburbs and towns with relatively good industrial foundations, such as Jiading, Minhang, Songjiang, Jinshan, and Baoshan, the Shanghai Municipal Government gradually developed them into important space for the industrial transfer of central cities through the planning of industrial zones and industrial satellite cities. The region has also received special care from the Shanghai municipal government in terms of industrial introduction, financial support, and preferential policies. The first time Qingpu received attention at the Shanghai government level was through the “Shanghai Urban Master Plan” revised in 1986. The document gave Qingpu Town the role of a small town in a suburban county for the first time. However, due to the development conditions at that time, such supporting policies exert little influence on Qingpu’s development. After 2000, the “Shanghai Urban Master Plan (1999-2020)” clarified the urban system of the central city-new town, and the construction of Qingpu New Town at the municipal government level brought about the development of Qingpu District. With the development opportunity, Qingpu was able to gradually step out of the shadow of the Shanghai government’s policy to become one of the key support areas. Qingpu New Town has also entered a dual-driven period of urbanization and industrialization, which has provided an important impetus for the agglomeration of functional elements in Qingpu New Town. Since then, the functional space has undergone rescaling in the new town space, finally promoting the post-suburbanization space in Qingpu District.
Table 1 The evolution of policy space in Shanghai
Policy document or event Key policy directions Key support areas
1959 “Shanghai Urban Master Plan” Compress old urban areas, control suburbs, and develop satellite cities Industrial zones: Minhang, Pengpu; Wujing, Taopu, Gaoqiao; Wusong; Wujing; Anting; Songjiang; Zhoupu, Yangsi, Qingning Temple
Satellite cities: Jiading, Anting, Songjiang, Minhang, Wujing, Wenzaobang
1965 “Sketches of the Third and Five-Year Construction of Shanghai City” Fundamentally changed the development pattern of Shanghai’s single central city Satellite cities: Minhang, Wujing, Jiading, Anting, Songjiang
In 1971, the Ministry of Petrochemicals selected a site in Jinshanwei, Shanghai The petrochemical department selects a site in Jinshanwei, Shanghai Satellite City: Jinshanwei
1977 “Baoshan Iron and Steel Plant Peripheral Project and Baoshan Area Planning” Ministry of Metallurgical Industry decides to build a large steel base in coastal areas Satellite City: Baoshan
1986 “Shanghai Urban Master Plan” Build and transform the central city, enrich and develop satellite cities, develop the “two wings” step by step, and build small towns in suburban counties in a planned way Satellite cities: Wujing, Minhang, Jiading, Anting, Songjiang, Jinshan, Wusong-Baoshan
Small towns: Xinzhuang, Qingpu, Zhujing, Huinan, Chengqiao, Nanqiao
“Shanghai Urban Master Plan (1986-2000)” Completion of the basic layout of the industrial park Industrial parks: Wujing, Wusong, Beixinjing, Taopu, Songjiang, Minhang, Caohejing
In 1990, the development
strategy of Pudong
The urban development pattern of Shanghai changed from north to south to east simultaneously Pudong New Area
“Shanghai Urban Master Plan (1999-2020)” Clarified the urban system of central city-new town, county town-central town-market town-central village New town: Jiading, Nanhui Huinan, Jinshan, Songjiang, Chongming New Bridge, Qingpu

5.1.2 Scale adjustment of space governance

First, in the 1980s, the central government delegated powers to the local governments. Under the influence of relevant policies, Shanghai municipal government also began to delegate powers to lower-level district governments. According to the No.365 Policy Document of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Urban Construction, Qingpu District, Jiading District, Songjiang District, Fengxian District, and other outer suburbs can manage land and carry out urban construction on their own. At the same time, the district government has greatly stimulated their pursuit of regional economic growth after obtaining certain financial and administrative powers. To mobilize the enthusiasm of the district government to develop local economy, the municipal government implemented the policy stipulating more tax rebates for higher incomes of district governments. To reduce the huge fundraising pressure for new town development and obtain large tax rebates, the development of new projects became an ideal choice for the district governments. All corporate taxes in industrial parks were returned to the district-level government, which in turn, stimulated the district-level government’s demand for large and important enterprises to a certain extent, often attracting enterprises to settle in through preferential policies, such as low-priced land or tax exemption. The decentralization of administrative and financial power enabled district-level governments to obtain economic revenue in terms of taxation and gain greater autonomy in the areas of land transfer and urban development. Under this circumstance, the government’s acquisition of economic revenue from land transfer has become an important impetus for the expansion of the new town.
Second, to better promote the development and construction of suburban spaces, the government often carried out up-scaling measures by dismantling counties into districts and towns into communities. For example, in 2000, Qingpu County was withdrawn from the county and re-established as a district; then, Zhujiajiao Town and Shenxiang Town were merged; and finally, the new Zhujiajiao Town was established. In addition, Qing’an Road, Qingsong Road, and Dianpu River were re-configured to establish Yingpu Community and Xiayang Community. In 2004, based on the area of Qingpu Industrial Park, the Xianghuaqiao office was also established. Part of the suburban villages and towns were merged into the urban area by dismantling counties and towns into districts and communities, respectively, and the scale will be pushed up through urban integration. In this way, the district government can coordinate the development and construction of the entire suburban space resources.
Third, the continuous expansion of the new town is also a process involving top-down changes in power relations. As shown in Table 2, in the first round of “Shanghai Qingpu New Town Urban Master Plan (2003-2020)”, the planning scope of the Qingpu New Town area included Shangda River in the north, Huqingping Expressway in the south, and Youdun in the east, and west to West Daying Port, with a planned area of 26.8 km2; in 2005, the scope of the new town continued to expand westward, and the boundary extended from West Daying Port to Fuxing Road. Qingpu Industrial Park was included as a whole. The continuous extension of the new town’s boundary also expanded the scope of the physical space of the new town. Although the Shanghai municipal government has not officially defined the jurisdiction boundary and administrative level of the new town, in actual operation, the administrative management of the new town is directly managed by the Qingpu District government, and the level has surpassed the subordinate community level.
Table 2 Overview of Qingpu New Town planning
Document Range Area Population size
“Shanghai Qingpu New Town Urban Master Plan 2003-2020” North to Shangda River, south to Huqingping Expressway, east to Youdun Port, west to West Daying Port, mainly involving Qingpu urban area Covering an area of 26.8 km2, construction land is 20.63 km2 25 ten thousand
“Shanghai Qingpu New Town Urban Master Plan 2005-2020” Starts from Youdun Port in the east, Huqingping Expressway in the south, Fuxing Road in the west, and Shangda River in the north, including the existing urban area of Qingpu, the extension area to the west and Zhujiajiao Township. Covering an area of 53.8 km2, construction land is 44.26 km2 50 ten thousand
“Shanghai Qingpu New Town Urban Master Plan 2009-2020” Expand the western boundary of the new town to the east bank of Dianshan Lake, and integrate Qingpu Industrial Park into the new city as a whole in the north. Covering an area of 119 km2, construction land is 87 km2 70 ten thousand

5.1.3 Redistribution of space value

To better guide the agglomeration of elements to the new town space, the government often relies on urban planning and other policy tools to exert the redistribution of spatial functions and values.
On the one hand, the government reorganized the functional space of Qingpu New Town in the entire regional space by integrating the spatial layout. For example, from the level of the district government, Qingpu District is divided into five areas. Among them, the east area is mainly for residential functions; the middle area is mainly for public service functions, such as administration, culture, and commerce; and the west area is mainly for conferences, exhibitions, business, commerce, and other functions. Furthermore, the lakeside area is mainly for tourism services and characteristic residences, the northern area is mainly for producer services, and the industrial area is mainly for industrial production functions. Through the distribution of space functions, the government realizes the nesting of different functional spaces and supports the normal operation of the new town.
On the other hand, the government guides the agglomeration of elements through the creation of strategic spaces. For instance, to guide the expansion of Qingpu New Town, the public management and service departments, such as the government building, were relocated to the new town space as a whole, relying on the main public axis to create functional spaces, such as living, leisure, tourism, and commerce, and guiding elements were also gathered here. Through the creation of strategic spaces, the agglomeration of elements to the new urban area is realized. At the same time, the government also promotes the city’s image and implements marketing through seeking the value of space. This is mainly reflected in its reliance on special spatial symbols, such as the ancient cultural site of Songze and Zhujiajiao national historical and cultural towns, which drive the production of tourism consumption spaces in Qingpu New Town through commercial marketing activities, such as brand marketing and cultural activities.

5.2 Shaping of suburban space by market capital

5.2.1 Primary development of state-owned capital

In the post-suburbanization space with the new town as the development model, the urban investment and development companies under the leadership of the government realized the primitive accumulation of capital through capital investment in the initial stage. In the early stage of the Qingpu New Town construction, since the land was not yet effectively developed, the commercialization and exchange value were not yet well known. At this point, it would not be realistic to realize the production of the new town space completely through land transfer. During the construction of the new town, the Qingpu District government mainly relied on the new town construction company and Zhujiajiao Investment Company held by the district. As a government agency, urban investment and development companies is mainly responsible for the investment, financing, and infrastructure construction of the new town.
On the one hand, the urban investment and development companies solved the problem of lagging infrastructure construction of the new town in the early stage, through investment in infrastructure construction. This played a significant role in promoting the transformation of the physical space and the improvement of the value of the new town space. On the other hand, as a government agency, its space development largely reflects the will of the local government. In this process, converting the right to use state-owned land into financial capital is a way for state-owned development companies to achieve the development of land capitalization.

5.2.2 Involvement of social capital

In the early stage of the development and construction of the new town, it was difficult for the local government to bear the huge financial pressures. Henceforth, selling land to market developers became an important driving force for the early expansion of the new town. Compared to the central urban area, the suburban land value was relatively low, and the central urban area was going through land scarcity. Owing to the rapid development of the city and the existence of differential rent, developers turned their investment perspectives to the suburbs by their interests. The participation of market capital allows the government and the market to jointly influence and design the process of suburban space formation through cooperation. After the first round of capital accumulation in the suburban space, the government gradually improved the urban infrastructure supporting construction and environmental improvement by relying on land to raise funds. On the one hand, the much better investment environment has attracted new enterprises to settle in. On the other hand, capital has been transferred to the service industry to provide support for the development of real estate and enterprises in the new town. Thus, to a certain extent, the speculative behavior of market capital has reshaped the physical space of the suburbs. On the whole, capital speculation within the market demonstrates obvious public-private cooperation. Furthermore, the first and second cycles of capital are realized through the accumulation of capital in the suburban space. The entry of social capital also promotes the rapid development of the local domestic real economy. Statistics show that in 2013, Qingpu District added 12,937 domestic-funded private enterprises, which paid 648.248 million yuan in taxes. By 2018, the investment in domestic-funded physical projects reached 1.93 billion yuan.

5.2.3 The flow of transnational capital

The formation of post-suburbanization spaces in the new town development model is parallel to China’s implementation of the globalization and opening-up strategy. During this period, global capital showed strong liquidity, and with the steady advancement and implementation of the globalization strategy, the glocal capital began to corrode the border and began to capture the space suitable for its own capital accumulation on a global scale.
In China, spaces that are represented by new towns and development zones, serving as space carriers for the implementation of government strategies, have become important places for global capital agglomeration. In particular, China’s comparative advantages of human resources and land costs make it an important basis for the choice of global surplus manufacturing industry capital. With the migration of a large number of global manufacturing companies to new suburban towns in China, the production function of suburbs is thus further strengthened. For instance, in the space production of Qingpu New Town, foreign-funded enterprises mainly carry out the space development of the new town by bringing in capital (Figure 4) and introducing new projects. Indeed, foreign-funded enterprises are an important part of the space investment in Qingpu New Town, especially in the transformation and upgrading process of Qingpu New Town. For example, in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry represented by Fawcett intelligent equipment, Hitachi elevators, and so on, the mature development of these industries has laid a solid foundation for the construction of the Qingpu innovative industry cluster.
Figure 4 The contractual and actual foreign investment in Qingpu District

5.3 Social stratum: participation in spatial reproduction

The integration of capital and authorities improves the development environment of space and provides basic conditions for different social strata to gather in space. At the same time, the entry of different social strata also reconstructs the reproduction of space. Post-suburbanization in China is accompanied by multiple promotions of industrial restructuring, ur- banization, and globalization, which is different from that of western metropolises. On the one hand, the restructuring of industries in the suburban area has transformed some industries in the suburban space into a service economy, attracting many white-collar workers to agglomerate in the suburban spaces. On the other hand, the metropolises represented by Shanghai have a high level of internationalization. As an important part of the global economic chain, Shanghai has always been a popular area for foreign investment in China. This results in a highly complicated social space of post-suburbanization in China and a more obvious phenomenon of mixed living of diverse groups. Among them, traditional local residents mainly include local citizens and local farmers. The development and construction of Qingpu New Town have become an important space carrier to boost the urbanization development of Qingpu District. With the rapid development of urbanization, many rural areas have withdrawn and disappeared, and the group has been forced to leave due to the expropriation of land. Owing to its generally low level of education, this group generally chose to engage in traditional manufacturing industries. At the same time, through demolition and resettlement, the relocated peasants gradually became citizens and transformed into a special group in the marginal area in the post-suburbanization period. Second, the agglomeration and development of the space industry in the outer suburbs have attracted migrants, whose low-income level encourages them to live in urban villages with relatively low rental costs. To meet the needs of this market, local residents also use some informal development strategies to build urban villages, which intensifies the problem of “urban villages” in Qingpu New Town. When Qingpu New Town expanded westward, many problems in “urban villages” arose. One example is the Donghenggang village group, which has been renovated and is located in the core area of Dianshan Lake New Town construction. A Zhujiajiao Road separates Donghenggang village group and the Wanda Mao business district. The comparison of the high-end villa area and the areas of the low and dilapidated houses forms a unique image of post-suburbanization. In addition, white-collar industries and gentrification began to appear in Qingpu New Town. With the agglomeration of a foreign-funded economy and high-tech industries in the suburban new town space, the scale of management personnel, professional and technical personnel, and clerical personnel continues to grow. Thus, in the past years, the redistribution of gentrification and white-collar groups in Shanghai has become an important driving force guiding the transformation and upgrading of post-suburbanization space industries.
Statistics show that from 2000 to 2020, the total external population in Qingpu District increased from 605,000 to 822,500, accounting for Qingpu’s permanent population from 55.96% to 63.63%, which coincided with the rapid construction period of Qingpu New Town, and these external populations were also basically distributed in Xiayang Community, Yingpu Community, Zhaoxiang Town, and Xiangyang Community within the new city, becoming an important force to promote the development of the new town. From the perspective of the educational structure, the proportion of groups who have not attended school, primary school, junior high school, high school, junior college, bachelor’s degree and above has changed from 5.52%, 22.5%, 47.51%, 14.88%, 5.43% and 4.16% to 0.79%, 9.73%, 39.81%, 17.89% and 17.72%, and the gentrification phenomenon of Qingpu New Town is more obvious.

6 Differences in post-suburbanization between China and the West

The special circumstance and specific local characteristics make the post-suburbanization space of China present its own unique paradigm, when compared with cities in Western developed countries. Details are shown in Table 3.
Table 3 Comparison of different characteristics of post-suburbanization between China and Western countries
Dimension China Western countries
Spatial utilization The production function of the suburbs is still stable Experienced the rise of the service industry under the de-industrialization
Social space The phenomenon of mixed living of diverse groups is more obvious Mainly consists of the middle class
Driving force A growth alliance is formed by multiple forces under the leadership of the government Market and society play a relatively large role
Relationship between suburbs and central urban areas Coordinated development Accompanied by the decline of central urban areas and the disintegration of functional centers
First, post-suburbanization in the West is based on traditional suburban living, thus reshaping the suburban functional space for the needs of economic activities (Nick and Wu, 2011). The emergence of post-suburbanization in China is significantly different from that in the West. In particular, post-suburbanization in China is based on industrialization and by considering the promotion of urbanization. Although the suburban functions and welfare infrastructure have been improved through urbanization, it strengthens other functions of suburban space in addition to living and production, such as business, leisure, and public services. However, in the period of post-suburbanization, the driving force of economic growth in China is still the manufacturing of suburban spaces, that is, the production function of the suburbs is still stable. Yet, the suburbs of developed western countries have experienced the rise of the service industry under the process of de-industrialization (Carr and Mcdonough, 2016; Shen, 2016).
Second, the pursuit of rural life by the middle class is an important driving force for the formation of large-scale suburbanization and even post-suburbanization in the West (Shen, 2016). Furthermore, compared to Western metropolises, post-suburbanization in China is accompanied by multiple promotions of industrial restructuring, urbanization, and globalization, and the characteristics of social strata mixing are more obvious, such as local residents, migrant workers, foreign businessmen and others.
Third, unlike the suburban growth path adopted by some cities in the United States, the subsequent suburbanization process was accompanied by the decline of central urban areas and the disintegration of functional centers (Robert, 2003; Delik and Tommy, 2012). But in the process of post-suburbanization in China, the suburbs and the central urban area are developed in tandem, and the central urban area is still an important functional center of the city. For example, in the post-suburbanization period, with the relocation and decentralization of some functional spaces in Shanghai, the surrounding areas such as the far suburbs and the suburbs have gradually developed into the sub-center of Shanghai. But on the whole, the central urban area of Shanghai is still a gathering place of various functional centers, and it is still an important functional center of Shanghai.
In addition, the special institutional environment results in a great relationship between the formation of post-suburbanization spaces in China and the growth alliance led by the government, while the formation of post-suburbanization spaces in the West has a great relationship with the market (Jenny, 2017; Jiang et al., 2019).

7 Conclusions and discussion

Based on the new stage of suburban spatial growth, this study places the suburbs of Shanghai in the post-suburbanization landscape, uses the theory of post-suburbanization to examine the trajectory of the suburban spatial growth in China, and reveals the features of the current suburban spatial growth in China.
On the one hand, the characteristics of the post-suburbanization phenomenon are systematically summarized from the perspectives of space utilization, spatial distribution, spatial structure and spatial governance, and on this basis, the differences between post-suburbanization and traditional suburbanization are further clarified. It is found that in China, the production of post-suburbanization space has a lot to do with the suburban development model, from the construction of industrial zones guided by early industrial development to the economic and technological development zones as space carriers after the reform and opening up, so that in the traditional suburbanization period, suburban space presents obvious production attributes, and is mostly located in the suburbs and around the central urban area in terms of space. After 2000, the development mode of new towns focusing on comprehensive functions, changed the attributes of single production and living space in the suburbs, and the creation of comprehensive functional space, the packaging and marketing of suburban space, made the suburban space at this stage become more complex and diversified under the impetus of urbanization, the production of life, consumption and other factor spaces accelerated, the integrated pattern of industry and city gradually emerged, the urban built-up area expanded rapidly to the outer suburban, and suburbanization also entered a new stage - post-suburbanization.
On the other hand, the research on the mechanism of post-suburbanization in the past pays too much attention to the role of government, this paper discusses the formation mechanism of the post-suburbanization under the action of authority, capital and social strata based on the theory of production of space, which reveals fully the driving mechanisms of post-suburbanization. It is found that the post-suburbanization space construction with new towns as the development mode is an important path for a new round of suburban space growth. On one hand, the development and construction of suburban new towns have expanded the space for capital accumulation in the metropolitan area. On the other hand, the development of new towns focuses on the integration of industry and city, attaches importance to the simultaneous development of urbanization construction and industrialization, and promotes the second cycle of capital accumulation centered on the urban construction environment and the first cycle centered on manufacturing. Overall, China’s special institutional circumstance enables the government to organize various forces to form a new growth alliance. The government often creates strategic spaces in the outer suburbs utilizing spatial re-positioning, scale adjustment of space governance, and spatial value distribution. At the same time, with the establishment of the land market and real estate market, the government often participates in urban development and construction as market participants. Furthermore, through the creation of policy space, enterprises and developers, which are driven by speculative behavior, gather in the backward suburban space and make capital investments in the transformation of physical spaces. Through the marketing of suburban spaces, the government and the market both guide different groups to the new town space. The agglomeration of demolition and resettlement personnel, business operators, foreign personnel, migrant workers, and other diverse groups emerged in the new town, jointly promoting the formation of post-suburbanization space.
In addition, the research responds to the long-term Western-dominated post-suburbanization theoretical system and expands the connotation of post-suburbanization theory with empirical cases in China. It is found that the special institutional circumstance makes the post-suburbanization space present a more obvious Chinese paradigm, and its spatial utilization, social space, spatial governance and the relationship between suburbs and central urban areas are significantly different from those in Western developed countries.
There are still some deficiencies to be improved. First, the research follows a relatively qualitative analysis paradigm, part of the conclusions cannot be well proven objectively. Second, due to the influence of various factors, such as geographical location conditions, economic development foundation, cultural differences, etc., the attributes of post-suburbanization spaces in different metropolitan areas tend to vary. At present, the research only selects the typical case of Shanghai representing other areas in the east. Research on post-suburbanization spaces, especially in the megacities in the central and western regions, remains limited. In the future, the corresponding micro- data should be obtained in combination with big data mining technology. Based on this, the basic database can be constructed, and the logic behind the formation of post-suburbanization spaces can be explored through analysis methods, such as spatial measurement. Doing so can make up for the current relatively qualitative analysis paradigm. At the same time, based on the comparative analysis of post-suburbanization spaces in different metropolitan areas, it would be beneficial to further enrich the related theoretical system of post-suburbanization and establish a multi-spatial organization model of post-suburbanization.
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