Town Planning Review

Governing city-regions in China: Theoretical issues and perspectives for regional strategic planning

Town Planning Review (2008), 79, (2-3), 157–186.

Abstract

The transformation of the regional system in China has resulted in polycentric spatial forms in major city-regions. With urban entrepreneurialism prevailing across the country, these polycentric structures lead to an intensive intercity competition for mobile capital. Building on a debate about the problematic nature and fragmented consequences of the entrepreneurial strategy, this article argues that regional strategic planning constitutes a new way for mega-city regions to overcome the negative effects of political fragmentation. To this end, it addresses two specific issues: the location of regional planning in local politics, which it addresses by underscoring the qualitative features of such politics in transitional economies; and a state-theoretical interpretation of what is behind the increasing interest in this level of planning, using the case of the Pearl River Delta strategic plan. It is argued that current regional planning practice can be understood as an important structural and strategic expression of a locally and regionally articulated political processes. It is now being used not only as a new way to reposition regions in the national and global economic landscapes, but also as a way for high-level governments to reassert their functional importance with regard to local economic governance. Rather than shifting territorial development trajectories and coordinating regional growth patterns, regional strategic planning might be little more than a cosmetic make-over that hides the intensifying competition within major city-regions in China.

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Xu, Jiang