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Evolving Spatial Form of Urban-Rural Interaction in the Pearl River Delta, China

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Much of the development literature and the theory of urban transition have been based on an arbitrary division of production space into city and countryside. Despite growing recognition of the need for an integrated approach to urban-rural relations, controversial issues related to the definition and measurement of the phenomenon remain unresolved. This case study of spatial transformation in China's Pearl River Delta analyzes with greater precision the geographic extent and functional attributes of a zone of urban-rural interaction located outside and between major metropolitan centers. This zone has been the spatial focus of industrial and commercial development, although most of its population remains officially classified as “agricultural.” The peri-urban zone was initially left behind by the central cities in terms of its contribution to the regional economy. After a decade of postreform development, this zone has moved ahead of the central cities and become the region's main destination for in-migrants and foreign investment. The growth of the zone of urban-rural interaction outside the central cities has absorbed a significant amount of the increased urban population, but it has not brought about a reduction of regional economic inequality because of the persistence of a backward economy in the periphery. Theoretical questions are raised concerning the validity of several fundamental assumptions underlying the conventional model of urban transition.

Keywords: China; Pearl River Delta; peri-urban zone; urban-rural interaction; urbanization

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The University of Hong Kong

Publication date: February 1, 2001

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