Chongqing, urban path dependence

The next UrbaChina conference will be held in Chongqing on May 28-30, 2014. From now and up to this date, the UrbaChina blog team will publish several posts related to this city.

In 1997, Chongqing was granted the status of provincial level municipality. Since then, the city has been through intense transformation and has seen its significance increase with the implementation of the “Go West policy”.

Last year, Michela Bonato (Heidelberg University) published an article of the urban transformation of Chongqing since 19491. According to this author, the roots of this evolution should be traced back to the period between 1949 and 1980, and Chongqing’s 1997 upgrading should not be seen as a mere policy to develop the Western provinces, but as a continuation of Chongqing’ s unique place in Chinese urban scenery.

Bonato argues that thanks to industry relocations from Dongbei and the Coasts, Chongqing remained a large industrial city. Her study also shows that the influence of Soviet communism on urbanism was weaker in Chongqing than in other large Chinese cities, because of the distance between Chongqing and the central authorities in Beijing, and the fact that Chongqing lost its rank of provincial capital in 1954. So Chongqing retained some pre-war classical urban principles. Bonato uses the example of the “Dalitang building” in Chongqing, where some traditional architectural features can be observed to illustrate this argument.

The most important point of Bonato’s paper is the path dependence influences Chingqing greatlyt, and the city’s current urban trends and political situation (this last point is only briefly looked at by Bonato) can be partly considered legacies from the past.

  1. Michela Bonato (2013). Structural Reasons of Current Upgrading: Urban and Industrial Images of the Chinese City Chongqing from 1949 until 1980. Scientific Annals of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, University of Iasi – Geography series, Vol. 59, No. 2, pp.95-110 []

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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