HomeOpEdUrban agglomerations spur China's high-quality development

Urban agglomerations spur China’s high-quality development

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Qian Feng

Editor’s note: In the current global economic environment, China’s economy has demonstrated its resilience and potential. How should the developing trend of China’s economy be viewed? In what ways are the advantages of China’s economic development reflected? Global Implications of China’s Economic Growth is a five-part series examining the questions given. The first article focuses on urban agglomeration in China. 

After more than 40 years of rapid growth, China’s economy has shifted from a stage of high-speed growth to high-quality development. With the changes of the international market environment and domestic factors, China’s original economic growth model is becoming more and more restricted, and it is necessary to optimize the economic structure and transform the growth drivers. What the engine of China’s growth in the future is has become pivotal.

Modern growth theory in economics shows that the driving force of a country’s economic growth is the expansion of the labor force and material capital in the take-off stages. After the initial stage, a country’s economic growth steps into an innovation-driven economic development.

The urban agglomeration is a kind of innovation that reconfigures economic factors such as population, capital, industry, commodities, trade, consumption and investment at the regional, urban and rural levels.

China has the biggest number of large cities and urban populations in the world. Urban agglomerations in the current Chinese economic development pattern can give full play to the comprehensive advantages of population and developmental conurbations in the self-reliance of national science and technology as well as industrial chain and supply chain security. This will promote China’s economic efficiency and support China’s high-quality development.

China unveiled its urbanization plan in 2014. Since then, its urban agglomeration development has entered the fast lane. The 13th Five-Year Plan has proposed building 19 such conurbations.

The plan issued for the construction of the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle in 2021 points out that the core task of urban agglomeration development is to promote the flow of resources in an orderly and free manner, and continue to release new economic drivers in a coordinated regional development.

In the just-released Chinese government’s work report, China has stressed support for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and other regions with strong economic development to better play their role as driving forces for high-quality development.

In the outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan, China pointed out that urban agglomerations are the main form of new-type urbanization, and are an important platform for supporting national economic growth, promoting coordinated development among regions, and participating in international competition and cooperation, focusing on promoting the construction of 19 conurbations.

Currently, the 19 major urban agglomerations account for 25 percent of the country’s land area, 75 percent of its population and 88 percent of its GDP.

Among the 19 major conurbations, the five pillar urban agglomerations, namely the Yangtze River Delta, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle, each have their own characteristics, with more outstanding strength and development potential.

Lujiazui area in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone in east China's Shanghai, January 10, 2023. /Xinhua
Lujiazui area in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone in east China’s Shanghai, January 10, 2023. /Xinhua
For example, “integration” and “high quality” are the two major characteristics for the Yangtze River Delta urban agglomeration, while “coordinated development” are the buzzwords for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is more positioned as a “gateway” to the region with vast openness and economic vitality in China. Cross-border connectivity and collaborative innovation under the “One Country, Two Systems” creates a new plateau for better opening-up.

The urban agglomeration in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River covers the largest area in China. The Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle has a prominent strategic position and is expected to become a national base of emerging industries and a financial center in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.

According to preliminary calculations, by 2030, China’s urbanization rate will reach 80 percent and there will be 200 million added to the urban population. It can be said that to seize urban agglomerations is to seize the new driving force for the Chinese economy.

The important functions of urban agglomeration are reflected in four areas: industrial agglomeration, scientific and technological innovation, boosting consumption and promoting opening up. In the future, China will make good use of the economic advantages of urban agglomerations in building a new development pattern to break market barriers and produce a “1+1 greater than 2” scale effect, thus creating new economic growth points for China’s high-quality development.

*Qian Feng is a senior research fellow at the National Strategic Institute, Tsinghua University, and Taihe Institute. The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of TDI. The article was first published in CGTN

SourceCGTN
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