In the last three decades, urbanization in China moved ahead at an unprecedented speed. Between 1978 and 2014, the urbanization rate increased from 17.9% to 53.7% (Chinese Government Network, 2015 [In Chinese]). During that time, more than five hundred million people moved from rural areas into cities. Rapid urbanization, along with industrialization, has propelled social and economic development not only in China, but globally as well.
However, the prospect of continuing at such high levels of urban development is dimming for three reasons. First, urbanization in China in the last three decades was driven externally by international industry transfer associated with the de-industrialization of developed countries. China’s status as “the world’s factory” provided funding and a workforce for urbanization. Internally, policies and regulations favoring urbanization, especially land use policy, paved the way for rapid urbanization. Nevertheless, as China’s economy has begun to slow due to the drop of the global market, the sustainability of this rapid urbanization has become a great challenge.