Regional Disparities in China
In the past three decades, China has been growing rapidly from a lower income to a lower middle income country (Huang, 2008). Emerging Chinese middle-class in coastal big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, today, enjoys prosperity brought by their economic growth. However, this wealth is not equally distributed. Many inland provinces, contrast to those in the coastal region, are still suffering from poverty. Spatial inequalities among different regions were dramatically increasing as consequences of government economic policies, fiscal decentralization and trade liberalization during the reform era. In the late 1990s, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) urgently launched series of regional development programs to address the problem and eventually narrowed inequality gaps among different regions in past few years.
China is the fourth largest country in the world in term of area size. Currently, mainland China consists of 27 province-level administrative units and 4 municipalities: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing (Li & Wei, 2010). As a result, there are many schemes and categories used to define China’s different regions. For example, in The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth, Naughton divides China territory into six macroregions according to the rugged topography. However, the common categories used in a field of regional disparities are a “three economic belts” scheme and a “coastal-inland” category. The three economic belts scheme divides China into three regions according to their geographies and economic performances (See Figure 1): eastern region, central region and western region (Fan & Sun, 2008). However, in some studies, such as, central and western regions are combined and called as inland provinces, while the eastern region is called coastal provinces (Fan, Kanbur & Zhang, 2011).
Figure 1: Provincial-level units and the three economic belts in China.
Source: “Regional Inequality in China,...