More green spaces in Chinese cities?

Wind-powered streetlights in a green park in Haikou (China), Goulard Sébastien

A few months ago, I wrote a short post on urban forests in China based on research conducted in Shenyang. The question of green spaces in Chinese cities is one which draws the focus of many scholars. An interesting article was published recently in “Urban forestry & urban greening”. In this article, the authors Yang Jun, Huang Conghong, Zhang Zhiyong and Wang Le1 analysed the evolution of urban green coverage in Chinese cities. They based their reasearch on satellite images of 30 Chinese cities. According to their finding, Chinese cities, unlike European and North American cities, have become greener over the last twenty years. However their results also show that original green areas have not been preserved. Changes in green coverage  are even more acute since 2000, and are caused by several factors including economic growth, climate change and greening policies.

According to their research, in the case of urban areas, both older and newly developed districts have become greener. But the overall urbanisation has caused a loss of vegetation coverage: large areas of agricultural lands have been transformed into more urban areas.

The authors also point an important turn-over of green areas. Because Chinese cities have been through constant and intensive redevelopment, the vegetation has not had enough time to grow: older trees were cut, and during the last twenty years, parks have been redesigned, redeveloped several times. So the usual benefits of vegetation in cities, such as pollution prevention and health have been limited. Authorities have favoured quantity over quality. The authors plead for the introduction of more green areas preservation policies at city level and propose that future research on green urban areas should make a distinction between already existing and new green spaces.


  1. Yang Jun, Huang Conghong, Zhang Zhiyong & Wang Le (2014). The temporal trend of urban green coverage in major Chinese cities between 1990 and 2010. Urban forestry & urban greening, Vol.13 No.1, pp.19-27 []

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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