Polycentric urban development and economic productivity in China: A multiscalar analysis


‘Urban polycentricity’ has become both a conceptual framework capturing emerging empirical realities and a spatial planning vision adopted in cities across Europe, USA, and, recently, also China. Despite the blossoming academic literature on polycentricity, only limited attempts have been made to explore whether and how polycentric urban development at different spatial scales affects the urban economy. In this paper, we empirically analyse whether and how urban polycentricity at different spatial scales in China is associated with urban economic performance. To this end, we extend the Cobb–Douglas production function and include measures of both inter-urban and intra-urban polycentricity to explain differences in labour productivity. The analysis links intra-urban monocentricity and inter-urban polycentricity with higher levels of labour productivity. In addition, the analysis points to an agglomeration spillover effect, as well as a potential weak positive interaction effect between intra- and inter-urban polycentricity. The paper concludes with policy implications for China’s spatial development.

Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 51(8), 1622-1643.