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China’s development policies and city size distribution: An analysis based on Zipf’s law


  • Li Fang

    (University of Maryland, USA)

  • Peng Li

    (State Information Center, China)

  • Shunfeng Song

    (University of Nevada, USA; Nanjing Audit University, Nanjing, China)


Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China’s urban development policies have experienced dramatic changes, from anti-urbanisation before 1978, to anti-large-city-development during 1978–1999 and coordinated urbanisation in 2000–2012. Using city-level data from 1949 to 2012, this paper examines China’s development policies and city size distribution. Evidenced by the Zipf coefficient, we found that China’s city sizes became more evenly distributed before 2000, and this pattern was reversed after 2000. These findings suggest that China’s urban system is strongly affected by its shifting urban development strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Li Fang & Peng Li & Shunfeng Song, 2017. "China’s development policies and city size distribution: An analysis based on Zipf’s law," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 54(12), pages 2818-2834, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:urbstu:v:54:y:2017:i:12:p:2818-2834

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