In the course of China’s rapid environmental change, the rebuilding of city centers has left few historic urban spaces and structures to conserve, while urbanization of the countryside has brought increasing numbers of small towns and villages onto the conservation lists. The collective governmental "eye" now sees an environment that was formerly invisible to it, and brings it into the orbit of its metropolitan concerns. On one hand, municipal leaders seek room for the city’s expanding functions; on the other hand, officials (and public discourse in general) perceive a loss of local and regional identity in the wake of rapid development. The recognition and value of rural built and natural environmental heritage in China is an integral part of the urbanization process. It is redefining "urban conservation" to encompass agricultural and other rural settlements, in addition to historic urban environments and communities.