Shrinkage and Expansion in Peri-Urban China: Exploratory Case Study from Jiangsu Province
China is notable for its high levels of sustained economic growth over the last two decades, but even casual observers of China would be aware of the large numbers of rural migrants moving to cities of the coastal zone in response to rapidly expanding employment opportunities. According to the 2010 Chinese Census, 261.4 million, or 16.2 percent, of the entire population of China shifted locations between 2005 and 2010.2 While not all the migrants are permanent migrants due to restrictions on household registration (hukou) and personal preferences, the movement of such a large number of individuals, in a nation with a very low fertility rate, has impacts on the places of origin. One of those impacts could very well be “shrinkage” in terms of the population and the economic activities that they would otherwise support. Urban shrinkage in China has not attracted much attention though the State of the World’s Cities Report has identiﬁ ed ﬁ fty Chinese cities as shrinking (UN Habitat 2008: 45). Whether any Chinese city is shrinking in the same way as some of the cities in postindustrial economies such as Japan, Germany and the United States is largely unexplored. Urban shrinkage is generally associated with persistent and high unemployment, loss of population, declining economic dynamism and manifestations of physical deterioration, but these conditions are not generally evident in China. If there are shrinking cities in an expanding economy such as China, in what ways are they similar or diff erent from those observed in other countries?