Journal of Geographical Sciences

, Volume 29, Issue 8, pp 1331–1345 | Cite as

Urban shrinkage and growth: Measurement and determinants of economic resilience in the Pearl River Delta

  • Zhiwei DuEmail author
  • Hongou Zhang
  • Yuyao Ye
  • Lixia Jin
  • Qian Xu


In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, China witnessed gradual shrinkage of cities in the Pearl River Delta (PRD). In this study, we introduce the concept of economic resilience to analyse urban growth and shrinkage in the context of a rapidly-urbanising region. Multiple regression analysis is performed to explore the determinants of economic resilience in the PRD. By measuring resistance in the shrinking phase and re-coverability in the growing phase in a group of cities in the PRD, this study distinguishes four scenarios and investigates their characteristics from a spatial perspective. The results demonstrate that the financial crisis had a severe and asymmetric influence on this area, indicating more than 15% of cities are faced with shrinking. The spatial distribution of economic resilience indicates a centre-periphery pattern, that is, high economic resilience in the inner ring and low economic resilience in the outer ring of the PRD. The service economy is found to play a significant role in promoting urban economic resilience. Results imply that sound economic policies for enhancing resilience: both poor local financial status and a high degree of export concentration adversely impact resistance, while upgrading the manufacturing economy and stimulating of industrial innovation are conducive to improve recoverability.


economic resilience urban shrinkage global financial crisis shock resistance shock recoverability Pearl River Delta 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bartholomae F, Nam C W, Schoenberg A, 2017. Urban shrinkage and resurgence in Germany. Urban Studies, 54(12): 2701–2718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beauregard R A, 2009. Urban population loss in historical perspective: United States, 1820–2000. Environment and Planning A, 41: 514–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boschma R, 2015. Towards an evolutionary perspective on regional resilience. Regional Studies, 49(5): 733–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Briguglio L, Cordina G, Farrugia N et al., 2009. Economic vulnerability and resilience: Concepts and measurements. Oxford Development Studies, 37(3): 229–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bristow G, Healy A, 2014. Regional resilience: An agency perspective. Regional Studies, 48(5): 923–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christopherson S, Michie J, Tyler P, 2010. Regional resilience: Theoretical and empirical perspectives. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(1): 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cowell M M, 2013. Bounce back or move on: Regional resilience and economic development planning. Cities, 30: 212–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies A, Tonts M, 2010. Economic diversity and regional socioeconomic performance: An empirical analysis of the Western Australian grain belt. Geographical Research, 48(3): 223–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dawley S, Pike A, Tomaney J, 2010. Towards the resilient region? Local Economy, 25(8): 650–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dawley S, Stenning A, Pike A, 2008. Mapping corporations, connecting communities: Remaking steel geographies in northern England and southern Poland. European Urban and Regional Studies, 15(3): 265–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Di Caro P, 2015. Testing and explaining economic resilience with an application to Italian regions. Papers in Regional Science, 96(1): 93–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drobniak A, 2012. The urban resilience-economic perspective. Journal of Economics and Management, 10: 5–20.Google Scholar
  13. Du Z W, Li X, 2017. Growth or shrinkage: New phenomena of regional development in the rapidly-urbanising Pearl River Delta. Acta Geographica Sinica, 72(10): 1800–1811. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  14. Giannakis E, Bruggeman A, 2017. Determinants of regional resilience to economic crisis: A European perspective. European Planning Studies, 25(8): 1394–1415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Glaeser E L, 2005. Review of Richard Florida’s the rise of the creative class. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 35(5): 593–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grabher G, 1993. The Embedded Firm: On the Socio-economics of Industrial Networks. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Gunderson L, Holling B, 2002. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Washington: Island Press.Google Scholar
  18. Haase A, Rink D, Grossmann K et al., 2014. Conceptualizing urban shrinkage. Environment and Planning A, 46(7): 1519–1534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harrison B, 1984. Regional Restructuring and ‘Good Business Climates’: The Economic Transformation of New England since World War II. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hartt M, 2018. The diversity of North American shrinking cities. Urban Studies, 55(13): 2946–2959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hassink R, 2010. Regional resilience: A promising concept to explain differences in regional economic adaptability? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3: 45–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hattori K, Kaido K, Matsuyuki M, 2017. The development of urban shrinkage discourse and policy response in Japan. Cities, 69: 124–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Häußermann H, Siebel W, 1988. Die schrumpfende Stadt und die Stadtsoziologie. In: Friedrichs J, Soziologische Stadtforschung. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.Google Scholar
  24. Hill E, Wial H, Wolman H, 2008. Exploring Regional Economic Resilience. Working Paper 2008-04. University of California: Institute of Urban and Regional Development.Google Scholar
  25. Holling C S, 1973. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 4(1): 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holling C S, 1996. Engineering versus ecological resilience. In: Schulze P et al., Engineering Within Ecological Constraints. Washington: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hu X, Hassink R, 2017. Exploring adaptation and adaptability in uneven economic resilience: A tale of two Chinese mining regions. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 10(3): 527–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hudson R, 2005. Rethinking change in old industrial regions: Reflecting on the experiences of North East England. Environment and Planning A, 37(4): 581–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hudson R, 2009. Resilient regions in an uncertain world: Wishful thinking or a practical reality? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(1): 11–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hollander J B, Pallagst K, Schwarz T et al., 2009. Planning shrinking cities. Progress in Planning, 72(4): 223–232.Google Scholar
  31. Kabisch N, Haase D, Haase A, 2012. Urban population development in Europe, 1991–2008: The examples of Poland and the UK. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36: 1326–1348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Long Y, Wu K, 2016. Shrinking cities in a rapidly urbanizing China. Environment and Planning A, 48: 220–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Martin R, 2010. Roepke lecture in economic geography-Rethinking regional path dependence: Beyond lock-in to evolution. Economic Geography, 86(1): 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Martin R, 2011. Regional economic resilience, hysteresis and recessionary shocks. Journal of Economic Geography, 12(1): 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Martin R, Sunley P, 2015. On the notion of regional economic resilience: Conceptualization and explanation. Journal of Economic Geography, 15(1): 1–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Martin R, Sunley P, Gardiner B et al., 2016. How regions react to recessions: Resilience and the role of economic structure. Regional Studies, 50(4): 561–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Martin R, Sunley P, Tyler P, 2015. Local growth evolutions: Recession, resilience and recovery. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 8(2): 141–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martinez-Fernandez C, Audirac I, Fol S et al., 2012. Shrinking cities: Urban challenges of globalization. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36(2): 213–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martinez-Fernandez C, Weyman T, Fol S et al., 2016. Shrinking cities in Australia, Japan, Europe and the USA: From a global process to local policy responses. Progress in Planning, 105: 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Metcalfe J S, Foster J, Ramlogan R, 2006. Adaptive economic growth. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 30: 7–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Modica M, Reggiani A, 2015. Spatial economic resilience: Overview and perspectives. Networks and Spatial Economics, 15(2): 211–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Montgomery D C, Peck E A, Vining G G, 2012. Introduction to Linear Regression Analysis. Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  43. Oswalt P, 2006. Shrinking Cities, International Research. Vol. 1. Ostfildern: Hatje Crantz Verlag.Google Scholar
  44. Palaskas T, Psycharis Y, Rovolis A et al., 2015. The asymmetrical impact of the economic crisis on unemployment and welfare in Greek urban economies. Journal of Economic Geography, 15(5): 973–1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pendall R, Foster K A, Cowell M, 2010. Resilience and regions: Building understanding of the metaphor. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(1): 71–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pike A, Dawley S, Tomaney J, 2010. Resilience, adaptation and adaptability. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(1): 59–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pimm S L, 1984. The complexity and stability of ecosystems. Nature, 307(5949): 321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rieniets T, 2009. Shrinking cities: Causes and effects of urban population losses in the twentieth century. Nature and Culture, 4(3): 231–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schilling J, Logan J, 2008. Greening the rust belt: A green infrastructure model for right sizing America’s shrinking cities. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(4): 451–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sensier M, Bristow G, Healy A, 2016. Measuring regional economic resilience across Europe: Operationalizing a complex concept. Spatial Economic Analysis, 11(2): 128–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Simmie J, Martin R, 2010. The economic resilience of regions: Towards an evolutionary approach. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(1): 27–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Turok I, Mykhnenko V, 2007. The trajectories of European cities, 1960–2005. Cities, 24: 165–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Walker B, Gunderson L, Kinzig A et al., 2006. A handful of heuristics and some propositions for understanding resilience in social-ecological systems. Ecology and Society, 11(1): 13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Webber D J, Healy A, Bristow G, 2018. Regional growth paths and resilience: A European analysis. Economic Geography, 11(2): 227–240.Google Scholar
  55. Wiechmann T, Pallagst K M, 2012. Urban shrinkage in Germany and the USA: A comparison of transformation patterns and local strategies. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36(2): 261–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wiechmann T, Wolff M, 2013. Urban shrinkage in a spatial perspective: Operationalization of shrinking cities in Europe, 1990–2010. AESOP-ACSP Joint Congress, Vol. 1519.Google Scholar
  57. Wolfe D A, Gertler M, 2016. Growing Urban Economies: Innovation, Creating and Governance in Canadian City-regions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Xu Y Y, Wang C, 2017. Influencing factors of regional economic resilience in the 2008 financial crisis: A case study of Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces. Progress in Geography, 36(8): 986–994. (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yang Z, Dunford M, 2018. City shrinkage in China: Scalar processes of urban and hukou population losses. Regional Studies, 52: 1111–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press Springer-Verlag 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhiwei Du
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hongou Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yuyao Ye
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lixia Jin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qian Xu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Guangzhou Institute of GeographyGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Guangdong Open Laboratory of Geospatial Information Technology and ApplicationGuangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations