Urban Shrinkage and Regional Governance in Southwestern China: A Case Study of the Chengdu-Chongqing Urban Agglomeration


  • Cuiping Tan The University of Hong Kong


Urban shrinkage, Regional governance, Southwestern China, Urban agglomeration




Urban shrinkage is a widely spread phenomenon across the world, expanding to rapidly urbanizing China since 2000s. Urban shrinkage emerging around core cities is one of the typical shrinking modes in China. A salient example is the severe shrinkage of cities surrounding Chengdu and Chongqing in the past twenty years. However, previous research has paid a lot attention to the identification of urban shrinkage in overall China and its driving force in north-eastern and south-eastern China, but there are few in-depth studies in China’s southwestern regions, wherein urban shrinkage is driven by both market forces, such as the flow of population and capitals from small cities to core cities, and state intervention, including the policy and financial support to regional core cities. These dynamics differ from those in the northeast region of China, primarily driven by resource depletion, and the southeast coast, significantly influenced by market choices.

Given the contextual differences in terms of economic development stage and governance models, this study attempts to provide a comprehensive case study of Chengdu-Chongqing Urban Agglomeration, located in southwestern China. It critically analyses and interprets urban shrinkage in this region, revealing the intricate relationships and regional governance between and among the cities from the dimensions of population, economic and spatial developments. Methodologically, the study employs mixed quantitative and qualitative methods in identifying and explaining geographical patterns of urban shrinkage at the regional scale. These include the use of spatial modelling techniques and regression analyses, and application of relevant theories and qualitative data to interpret the quantitative findings, and for conducting a case study of Ziyang, a shrinking city located between Chengdu and Chongqing.

The results highlight that administrative, geographical, and industrial connections with core cities exacerbate the shrinkage of surrounding smaller cities in this region. The study also emphasizes that land use, resource allocation, industrial strategic orientations, and collaborative governance within the urban agglomeration have both positive and negative impacts on the shrinkage of surrounding cities. A rational and coordinated regional governance model can promote overall development and enable shrinking cities to achieve sustainable development.

This study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of urban dynamics and provides insights for addressing the challenges faced by shrinking cities.


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