Chapter 7 China’s evolving city system and large city clusters
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While China is a very large country—with a land area about the size of the United States—it contains about one-fifth of the world’s population. Much of Qinghai province, the Tibet and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions, and other parts of China’s land area are sparsely inhabited or empty desert, mountain, or grassland. Accordingly, for millennia China’s population has been concentrated in central and eastern China—particularly the Pearl River Delta including Hong Kong, the Yangtze River Delta with Shanghai as its core, and the Beijing–Tianjin corridor. At different times since the Tang dynasty capital cities of important Chinese dynasties were very large: notably Chang ’An (Xian), Kai-Feng, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Beijing. But they were centers of political and military authority not much integrated with small and medium-sized cities, towns, and villages near them or larger systems of cities in China (Friedmann, 2005). China’s very large cities and the relationships among them have emerged only in the last three decades.

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