- Urbanization, Regional Development and Governance in China by Jianfa Shen
Despite many disturbing incidents of trade wars and geopolitical tensions recently that threatened to reverse the tide of globalization and interdependent global developments, it is generally understood that the accelerating urbanization of the Chinese population at a phenomenal scale and unbelievable speed would inevitably have profound impacts upon the land and people not just within the well-proclaimed, effectively protected and self-centered “middle kingdom” (中國) per se but of the whole planet as well. For this and other reasons, China’s urbanization and its related issues of regional development and governance have long attracted great international attention. A voluminous and well-established corpus of literature already exists to document and interpret the many facets of Chinese urbanization from different disciplinary perspectives. This corpus of literature has become so mature and consolidated that it would be an extremely difficult task to either find anything wrong for correction or identify any major gap for fulfillment. Against this backdrop, Shen’s new work Urbanization, Regional Development and Governance in China represents a courageous attempt to engage with the existing literature and push it forward to new frontiers. Instead of making a head-on confrontation with the existing literature on China’s urbanization, the author opts for an approach that sets himself apart from many others. “Using urbanization, development and governance as key links, this book systematically studies the critical issues for understanding the rapid urbanization in China” (p. 16). In other words, the three inter-related phenomena of urbanization, regional development, and governance are not examined in isolation of one another but instead are treated systematically, relationally, and holistically. To me, this is an approach very distinctive and innovative as it allows us to obtain fresh and significant insights from a new angle.
The book has nine chapters. Chapters 1 and 9 provide an introduction and conclusion of the main issues addressed in the book. This is followed by two chapters that conceptualize China’s urbanization at the national level making good references to the theoretical models of scale and state [End Page 169] (Chapter 2) as well as the author’s framework of dual-track urbanization (Chapter 3). The balance of the book (Chapters 4–8) presents an assemblage of empirical studies concerning the changing urban system in Guangdong Province (Chapter 4), urban growth and sustainable development in Shenzhen (Chapter 5), economic integration between Hong Kong and China’s mainland (Chapters 6 and 8), and cross-border urban governance in Hong Kong (Chapter 7). Building on the articles that the author has previously published in leading international journals, the book stands as a beautiful collection of the path-breaking research work that the author has done over the last fifteen years.
It is beyond dispute that the issue of China’s urbanization, regional development, and governance has already been extensively documented. Available publications can be broadly grouped into two categories. On one hand, there are numerous publications taking the forms of research monographs and journal articles that provide some focused and in-depth interpretations of a chosen specific dimension of urbanization, regional development and governance. On the other, there are many edited volumes covering a wide spectrum of the subject from many different perspectives. This book presents an interesting “third treatment” bridging the two ends of focused studies at the micro level and broad coverage at the macro level. Because the issues of urbanization, regional development and governance are virtually and intrinsically inter-related, the integrated approach adopted in this book has enabled us to better understand the complexity and sophistication of the patterns, processes and practices of China’s urbanization and regional development. For instance, the intriguing pattern and process of China’s urbanization before and after market reforms can never be understood without a scrutiny of the role of the state and the practices of urban governance. By “bringing the state back in” and taking urban governance into serious consideration, the author examines China’s “dual-track urbanization” that consists of...