Anwaer Maimaitiming, Zhang Xiaolei, Cao Huhua (2013), Urbanization in Western China, Chinese Journal of Population Resources and Environment Volume 11, Issue 1, 2013, p. 79-86. DOI: 10.1080/10042857.2013.777197
China has experienced considerable urbanization in the past 60 years, especially since the implementation of the Economic Reform and Opening-up Policy in 1978. In 1949, there were only 132 cities with an urban population of 27.4 million, while in 2008 China had 652 cities with a total urban population of 606 million. Such urbanization is attributed to the boost in the number of cities and the urban population. Urban expansion enhanced geographic inequality between the three major regions in China. Compared with the eastern and central regions, western China only has 19% of the total cities and 18% of the urban population. The urbanization rate was 37.2% for the western region in 2008, while it reached 53.3% for the eastern regions and 45.3% for central China. Using a geographic information system (GIS) and statistical analyses, this study aims at explaining the structure and spatial development of urbanization, and highlighting the current issues of urban inequality in western China during the past two decades. The paper drew following conclusions: (1) Urbanization disparities between eastern and western China have become increasingly obvious, but seem to be evolving slowly since the establishment of the government’s Western Development Priority Policy in 2000. (2) Cities of various sizes were expanded in western China, and the main factors affecting the urbanization are population numbers and density, government investment and geographic conditions. (3) Current patterns of urbanization in the western region are distributed unevenly between provinces.