Booms, Busts and Urban Variation Among ‘Resource-based Cities’ in China’s Northwest

in Inner Asia
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China’s northwest is commonly portrayed in monolithic terms as poorer and less urbanised than the rest of the country. While this characterisation is partially true, it overlooks considerable variation at the local level and the dramatic socio-spatial changes in recent years that have transformed the region. Resource-based cities are under-examined, yet they constitute an important aspect of regional development. This article details recent dynamics of growth and decline in northwestern resource-based cities. It finds that booms and busts in extraction-oriented cities currently define urban growth in the region and urges greater attention be paid to these cities’ transformations.



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As of 2013, there were 126 prefecture-level cities, 62 county-level cities, 58 counties (including autonomous counties and special districts) and 16 urban districts.


  • Geographical locations of western China’s resource-based cities.

    map: james degrand
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