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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Restless landscapes: spatial economic restructuring in China’s lower Yangzi delta Marton, Andrew Mark


The development of market socialism in China has contributed to a spatial economic transformation characterized, among other things, by the apparent capacity to rapidly industrialize without transferring large numbers of people into big cities. The most striking element of this transformation has been the phenomenal growth and spatial proliferation of industries in particular areas of the Chinese countryside. The conventional wisdom of existing theories of development, industrialization, and urbanization does not adequately explain the emergence of these relatively productive regions. This thesis examines the key patterns and underlying processes and mechanisms which must be accommodated in a new analytical and conceptual framework for understanding rural transformation and the wider spatial economic restructuring in China's lower Yangzi delta. The overall objective is to explore the theoretical implications of the local character of regional change through an evaluation of a hypothetical model of mega-urbanization. The model situates the emergence and specific patterns of industrial production within a complex network of interactions and interrelationships embedded in overlapping administrative and institutional structures which are themselves largely tied to the circumstances of particular places. The resulting investigations are based upon an analysis of regional and local level statistical and other documentary sources, numerous interviews, field observations, and a survey questionnaire of rural enterprises which was part of a detailed case study of one county level area in the lower Yangzi delta. Two central findings are revealed. First, the patterns and underlying processes and mechanisms of regional development in the delta are fundamentally linked to intensely localized exigencies and opportunities within the wider Chinese space economy. Second, external economies, the dynamics of agglomeration, and the role of large cities and other exogenous forces, while significant, were less important in the delta than were endogenous forces. The details of these findings are incorporated into a revised model of mega-urbanization which highlights the critical processes and mechanisms which underlie the patterns observed, what establishes these processes and mechanisms, and what stabilizes and reproduces them. The thesis concludes by suggesting an agenda for the creation of appropriate planning and management responses for the lower Yangzi delta region.

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