China's Urbanization and Motorization


China urbanized 350 million people in the past 30 years and is poised to do it again in the next three decades. We examine the multi-dimensional characteristics, unbalanced process, 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 Central Government) to experiment.  

Shaping Rapidly Growing Chinese Cities: Lessons in the Behavioural Impacts of Transport Finance Choices, Zhao, Jinhua, and Block-Schachter David , 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...

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

A high level of non-compliance with policies aimed to protect common pool resources necessitates investigation into motivations behind compliance so that policies could be tailored to raise compliance level. Compliance with such protection policies of common pool resources such as car control policies instituted in Chinese cities aimed to reduce congestion and pollution is critical to ensuring sustainable development. In 1994 Shanghai instituted a monthly license plate auction policy to...

Exploring Urban Activity Patterns Using Electric Smart Meter Data, Wilson, Saul , Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Volume SM, (2016)

This thesis uses electricity consumption data from household and enterprise-level smart meters in County B, Country A, and Turin, Italy, to explore temporal and geographic variations in urban energy consumption and thus urban activity. A central question is whether electricity consumption patterns vary between different economic sectors, across space, and between different days of the week and times of year. This data shows clearly that Country A activity patterns are roughly similar across...

Urbanization Process Models, Internal Rural-Urban Migration, and the Role of Institutions in China Three Essays on Urbanization and Migration, Xu, Liyan , Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Volume PHD, Cambridge, MA, (2016)

        This dissertation is a collection of three essays on urbanization and migration. The first essay is a treatment on the urbanization theory. I discuss the ambiguity in the urban concept, and through an examination on the urban definitions and urbanization statistics in the United Nation’s World Urbanization Prospect (the 2011 revision), I show the five
dimensions of a comprehensive urban concept: the demographic, physical, economic, social, and cultural dimensions. Next,...

Establishing Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) on the ground : case-based analysis of implementing TOD in China, Zheng, Ruishan , Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, Volume Master of Science, Cambridge, MA, (2015)

While the study of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in China has been under way since the 1990s, effective examples of TOD in practice remain scarce. This research conducted 41 semi -structured interviews and applied the Policy-Program- Implementation Process (PPIP) model to identify the challenges to TOD implementation — which are found throughout the entire process, from general acceptance, to urban planning capacity and regulations, to g overnment administration and the real estate...

Fixing China’s Distorted Urban Land Quota System, Xiao, Yuan, and Zhao Jinhua , 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...

Rise and Decline of the Bicycle in Beijing, Yang, Ming, Wang Qiuning, Zhao Jinhua, and Zacharias John , 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, Block-Schachter, David, and Zhao Jinhua , 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...

Has Transportation Demand of Shanghai, China, Passed Its Peak Growth?, Zhao, Zhan, Zhao Jinhua, and Shen Qing , 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...

Team Members

Jungwoo Chun's picture
PhD Student
Paul Kishimoto's picture
PhD Candidate
Xuenan Ni's picture
MCP/MST student
Shenhao Wang's picture
PhD Student
Liyan Xu's picture
Jinhua Zhao's picture
Edward H. and Joyce Linde Associate Professor