Should Chinese cities become “compact”?

In a recent article published in Habitat International, Yong Liu, Yu Song and Hans Peter Arp1 study the relation between urban form and urban eco-efficiency in China and question the ideal size of Chinese cities.  The 1994 tax reform has encouraged cities to transform agricultural land into urban land; as a result, urban sprawl has become a major issue for Chinese cities. Several studies, focusing on the case of European cities, have pointed out the negative impact of urban sprawl on environment. Consequently, the “compact city” model has been promoted in Europe, and especially in the Netherlands, where several endeavours have proved to be successful. These previously observed patterns in Europe raise several questions for China’s urban development. How does the form of Chinese cities impact their environment? How can Chinese cities be eco-efficient? How can they maximise their economic growth without damaging their environmental resources?

To conduct their research, the authors of the article used several indicators for urban form, including format ratio, compactness ratio, elongation ratio, urban population density and eco-efficiency indicators, and applied them to 30 Chinese cities. According to their findings, there is a correlation between city compactness and eco-efficiency in the case of Chinese cities. Compact cities not only preserve arable land, but also make public services more efficient for the community. However, this study also shows that compactness may increase pollution because of high population density. The authors recommend that the implementation of the “compact city” model in China should take into account this high density, in order to anticipate traffic congestion, pollution and other issues intensifying and to take measures to reduce them.


Cite this blog post
Sebastien Goulard (2013, November 25). Should Chinese cities become “compact”? URBACHINA. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

  1. Yong Liu, Yu Song and Hans Peter Arp (2012) Examination of the relationship between urban form and urban eco-efficiency in China. Habitat International, Volume 36, Issue 1, January 2012, pp.171–177 []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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One thought on “Should Chinese cities become “compact”?

  1. terry mcgee

    Dear Sebastian..thanksfor this reference.. we are working on asimilar issue in KUala Lumpur malaysia.. one of thr lowest densitymegaurban regions in the world. Terry


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