China's Urbanization and Motorization


China urbanized 350 million people in the past 30 years and is poised to do it again over the next three decades. We examine the multi-dimensional characteristics, unbalanced processes, and divergent paths in China’s urbanization. We study the evolution of China's Hukou system reform and land ownership policy changes, and their impact on the internal rural-urban migration.
The ensuing expansion of urban land and intensification of urban activities have led to ballooning mobility demands. Meanwhile rising income and falling automobile prices have released a wave of mass motorization, resulting in severe traffic congestion and air pollution, creating an urgent need but limited opportunity for better mobility management. However, the overall growth of automobiles in China conceals significant variation among its cities. Crucial differences in the timing and structure of these cities’ transportation policies have influenced their effectiveness, efficiency, and equity; and the variation among cities also represents remarkably different social and economic priorities and a willingness by various cities (and the tolerance by the central government) to experiment.  

Shaping Rapidly Growing Chinese Cities: Lessons in the Behavioural Impacts of Transport Finance Choices, Jinhua Zhao, and David Block-Schachter , Improving Urban Access: New Approaches to Funding Transport Investment, London, (2016)

The need to finance urban access to meet mobility needs in both the developed and developing worlds in a sustainable fashion is undeniable. However, the way the money is raised has an impact on travel and location behavior. This chapter focuses on how accessibility can bridge the gap between land-based financing and mobility-based financing.

After examining the theoretical effects of pricing on accessibility, we focus on two Chinese examples. The first case emphasizes the diversity of...

Legitimacy vs morality: Why do the Chinese obey the law?, Jingkang Gao, and Jinhua Zhao , Law and Human Behavior, Volume 42, Issue 2, (2018)

This study explored two aspects of the rule of law in China: (1) motivations for compliance with 4 groups of everyday laws and regulations and (2) determinants of the legitimacy of legal authorities. We applied a structural equations model, constructed from Tyler’s conceptual process-based self-regulation model with morality added as a motivation, to online questionnaire responses from 1,000 Shanghai drivers. We explored the compliance with four particular groups of laws: public disturbance...

Distributional Effects of Lotteries and Auctions —License Plate Regulations in Guangzhou, Shenhao Wang, and Jinhua Zhao , Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 11/2017, Volume 106, p.473–483, (2017)

Lotteries and auctions are common ways of allocating public resources, but they have rarely been used simultaneously in urban transportation policies. This paper presents a unique policy experiment in Guangzhou, China, where lotteries and auctions are used in conjunction to allocate vehicle licenses. Guangzhou introduced vehicle license regulations to control the monthly quota of local automobile growth in 2012. To obtain a license, residents are required to choose between the lottery and...

Has Transportation Demand of Shanghai, China, Passed Its Peak Growth?, Zhan Zhao, Jinhua Zhao, and Qing Shen , Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Volume 2394, p.85–92, (2013)

On the basis of four comprehensive transportation surveys in Shanghai, China, this study examined the latest trends in Shanghai's travel demand; investigated their social, economic, and spatial drivers; and compared the pace of travel demand growth in three periods: 1980s to early 1990s, early 1990s to mid-2000s, and mid-2000s to the present. The demand growth was relatively slow in the first period and then sped up in the second before it returned to a slower pace in the third period. As...

Transportation Policymaking in Beijing and Shanghai: Contributors, Obstacles and Process, Chun, Jungwoo, Joanna Moody, and Jinhua Zhao , Working paper, (2018)

With continued motorization and urbanization in Chinese cities, there is a growing demand for innovative transportation policies at the city level to address the challenges of congestion, local air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Using Beijing and Shanghai as case studies, this paper draws on 32 in-depth semi-structured interviews with municipal government officials, academics, and transportation professionals to explore the city-level transportation policymaking process in China....

Transportation Policy Profiles of Chinese City Clusters: A Mixed Method Approach, Joanna Moody, Shenhao Wang, Chun Jungwoo, Ni Xuenan, and Jinhua Zhao , Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, (2019)

Chinese cities have experienced diverse urbanization and motorization trends that present distinct challenges for municipal transportation policymaking. However, there is no systematic understanding of the unique motorization and urbanization trends of Chinese cities and how physical characteristics map to their transportation policy priorities. We adopt a mixed-method approach to address this knowledge gap. We conduct a time-series clustering of 287 Chinese cities using eight indicators of...

Normative and Image Motivations for Compliance with Sustainable Transportation Policy, Jingkang Gao, and Jinhua Zhao , Urban Studies, (2016)

Compliance with laws and regulations intended to protect common pool resources in the urban context is essential in tackling problems such as pollution and congestion. A high level of non-compliance necessitates an investigation into motivations behind compliance. The long-held instrumental theory emphasising the dependence of compliance on tangible deterrence measures fails to adequately explain empirical findings. More recently...

Rise and Decline of the Bicycle in Beijing, Ming Yang, Qiuning Wang, Jinhua Zhao, and John Zacharias , Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting, (2014)

The strong tradition of bicycle use in Beijing has been in continuous decline since the mid1990s with bicycle share of vehicular traffic dropping from 62.7% in 1986 to 38.5% in 2000 and dropping even lower to 16.4% in 2010. Among various factors contributing to the rise and fall of bicycle use in Beijing, four are identified as having the greatest impact: policy and regulation, built environment, bicycle...

Lotteries vs. Auctions: China’s Experiments in Managing Automobile Growth, David Block-Schachter, and Jinhua Zhao , Asia Pacific Memo, Number 4 April 2015, Vancouver, (2013)

The astronomical growth in the number of private cars in China has led to very visible environmental crises and congestion. But the nationwide increase conceals crucial policy differences between cities that influence effectiveness, revenue, efficiency, equity and public acceptance.  While Shanghai and Beijing each had approximately 2 million motor vehicles in 2004, by 2010 Beijing had 4.8 million versus Shanghai’s 3.1 million.  By 2011, 38% of Beijing households were vehicle owners in...

Fixing China’s Distorted Urban Land Quota System, Yuan Xiao, and Jinhua Zhao , Paulson Institute Policy Memo, Chicago, (2015)

Chinese cities face two related problems: first, a shortage of land available for development, and second, wasted allocation of that land. Taken together, these two problems constrain local economic and social development at a time when cities are growing rapidly. Indeed, more than fifteen years after China decided to marketize land in 1998, China’s land market, to a large extent, remains inefficient. This distortion of China’s urban land market derives mainly from problems of supply. There...

Team Members

Jungwoo Chun's picture
PhD Student
Shan Jiang's picture
Postdoctoral Associate
Paul Kishimoto's picture
PhD Candidate
Joanna Moody's picture
Ph.D. 2019
Xuenan Ni's picture
MCP/MST student
Shenhao Wang's picture
Postdoctoral Associate
Liyan Xu's picture
Jinhua Zhao's picture
Edward H. and Joyce Linde Associate Professor