USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Urban Sprawl and the Peri-Urbanization of China

The transformation of a once rural China into the urban, mega-giant it is today has forced the process of urbanization to become to catalyst of a physiological/urban phenomenon known as the “peri-urban”. What is the peri-urban? Quite simply, it is the point at which the city fabric meets the rural; a rural-urban fringe, if you will. If we take the analogy of a city being a layered cake, the core would constitute the urban fabric, next would come the per-urban, then the suburban, and then finally the countryside/rural. What then is the different between the suburban and the peri-urban? Unlike the suburbs, the peri-urban still has relative importance to the overall economic/industrial component of big cities, just pushed off to the edge. In most cases, village entrepreneurs who desire this peri-urban land for programs like golf courses, entertainment centers, amusement parks, etc transform urban villages. Over time, these peri-urban villages become outgrowths of the expanding city and, if successful, become enveloped into the fabric. In all likelihood, the use of peri-urbanization is most likely a strong support for urban sprawl within a growing city. A main proponent of why Chinese cities are beginning to sprawl more and more is rooted in employment. Unlike urban developmental phases in the West, which was led by residential development, China took on the approach of using jobs as a key factor in increasing urban growth. In the 1980’s, China’s policy encouraged the industrialization of the rural, resulting in a large growth of peri-urban area spread over wide regions.  Peri-urban areas became strong attractors for local, and inter-provincial migrants to fill up jobs in these developing areas.

The present policy has now adopted a more market-based strategy by strategizing to concentrate on the most dynamic peri-urban zones, closer to the city center. Two major factors of current land-use policies and urban development drivers point to more aggressive establishments of peri-urban, which leads to suggest that China is still in pursuit of urban sprawl. First, the creation and removal of industrial factories and public institutions from the city into the peripheries. China is still in an industrial state, but the question of transitioning into a post-industrial nation still looms. It seems likely that as cities begin to grow, the need to relocate some essential industrial manufacturing companies to the outskirts will be a major move towards cleaning up the urban core. By conglomerating industries into one region, these specialized peri-urban zones are easily accessible, yet far enough to relieve the urban fabric from industrial congestion. The second major move is the steady rise of residential development in the peri-urban. Essentially, the migrant workers have begun to spring up permanent residences within these regions under the protection of the village commune. In some cases, these urban villages develop on their own, evolving into almost corporations. As fixed real estate, the government is all to readily eager to integrate and purchase the property to redevelop and lease out. As the current trend of these “random” housing developments sweeps across the peri-urban regions of China, perhaps a new wave of sprawling developments are in place to further expand the growth of Chinese mega-cities.



“Peri-Urbanization: Zones of Rural-Urban Transition”, http://www.eolss.net/EolssSampleChapters/C14/E1-18-02/E1-18-02-TXT-02.aspx

Filed under: Architecture, China, peri-urban, public policy, rural, sprawl, suburban, Urbanism


The views and opinions contained in this blog are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent the views and opinions of the University of Southern California or any of its officers or trustees.



AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu