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Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Urban Dynamics in Chengdu, 1975-2002

Working Paper

Published By

Shorenstein APARC, page(s): 56

October 2003

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Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, has undergone rapid transformation during China's post-reform period between 1978 and 2003. One of the leading cities in southwest China, Chengdu is second only to Chongqing in population. Chengdu anchors one end of the Chongqing-Chengdu urban corridor, the fourth most populous urban cluster in China. Although the upgrading of Chongqing Municipality to the equivalent of provincial status in 1997 has increased the city's profile and potential as an administrative, land transportation, and manufacturing center, it is expected that Chengdu's regional and strategic importance as a service and high-tech center will increase in the future. With increased economic specialization among Chinese cities, it is expected that Chengdu and Chongqing cities will increasingly complement each other in terms of function, both enhancing their developmental prospects as a result. Further, the development of western China is a major objective of the Tenth Five Year Plan. The "Go West" policy was introduced in 1999.

In Chengdu, as with many other Chinese cities, a complex interplay of government and private, local, national, and increasingly transnational forces have influenced urban growth. Responding to changes in local, national, and international economic drivers, Chengdu is redefining its economic roles and functions, with direct consequences for the city's physical form. In turn, the spatial manifestation of urban development has important implications for Chengdu's economic potential, social and political stability, and environmental and ecological functioning. Extensive, as opposed to compact, urban form requires massive infrastructure investments, increases energy demand, and has broad environmental impacts, including local and regional climate change, loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and increases in pressures on water resources. From the provision of clean drinking water to the construction of transportation and waste water networks, every aspect of the urbanization process has significant environmental implications.

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