Four Theses in the Study of China’s Urbanization


This article is written specifically for students of Chinese urbanization who are not sinologists. Four theses should inform their studies. The first is that China is an ancient urban civilization, but the processes we observe today are unprecedented. Thus, China’s urbanization must be studied under this dual aspect, giving due to both historical continuities and the unique characteristics of our own era. The second thesis argues that urbanization is a set of multidimensional socio‐spatial processes of at least seven different and overlapping dimensions, each with its own vocabulary and traditions of scholarship. The study of China’s urbanization thus requires a trans‐disciplinary approach. Thesis number three argues that urbanization involves rural–urban relations, but in contrast with many earlier studies, these relationships should be studied from an urban rather than rural perspective. Finally, and most contentiously, China’s urbanization, although entwined with globalization processes, is to be understood chiefly as an endogenous process leading to a specifically Chinese form of modernity.