Shrinking Cities in China: The Overall Profile and Paradox in Planning

  • Ying Long
  • Shuqi GaoEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


Manifested by population loss, shrinking cities are currently under heated discussion in the developed countries. The emerging shrinking cities in developing world, however, have not attracted enough attention. This paper focuses on the shrinking cities in China, where has been witnessed fast economic growth, rapid urban expansion, and massive urbanization in the last decades. By collecting and analyzing township-level demographic data of the Census in 2000 and 2010, we identified 180 shrinking cities. We then classified them into two sets of categories based on their causalities and spatial patterns of depopulation, respectively. Despite their great quantity, shrinking cities are largely disregarded by China’s planners and local authorities during the plan-making process. We conceptualized the causalities of the disregard into the systematic paradox and technological paradox, both of which are the effects of a combination of China’s specific planning system, land marketization, cadre promotion system, and the national urbanization policy. We then further conceptualize the overwhelming growth-oriented paradigm into a vicious cycle that continuously exacerbates oversupply of the built environment in shrinking cities. This paper ends with a discussion of appealing for more attention on shrinking cities in China and a paradigm shift from the growth-oriented planning, as well as the future research agenda for shrinking cities’ research in China.


Shrinking cities Depopulation Chinese cities Growth-oriented paradigm 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Architecture and Hang Lung Center for Real EstateTsinghua UniversityHaidian District, BeijingChina
  2. 2.School of ArchitectureSoutheast UniversityXuanwu District, NanjingChina

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