Shrinking City Research Network of China (SCRNC)


Researchers: Ying Long, Xun Li, Kang Wu, Dongfeng Yang, Wei Zhu, Xueliang Zhang, Zhigang Li, Gonghao Cui, He Huang, Jiangping Zhou, Hong Leng, Peng Jiang, Helin Liu, Xingjian Liu, Xinyue Ye, Kai Zhou, He Li (按参加顺序:龙瀛,李郇,吴康,杨东峰,朱玮,张学良,李志刚,崔功豪,黄鹤,周江评,冷红,姜鹏,刘合林,刘行健、叶信岳、周恺、李鹤)

Volunteers: Biao Tong, Nawei Wu, Yang Ju, Jie Zhang, Yiyun Sun, Shuqi Gao. 

Calling for more volunteers. Please address your CV and interest to Dr Long via (志愿者召集中)


城市人口的收缩由来已久,德国政府资助项目(Shrinking Cities)已经证实,全球范围内人口超过100万的450个城市地区,总体上失去了其城市人口的十分之一。德国学者近几年进行了开创性的探讨(发表在Environment and Planning A/B上),以居住人口作为评价指标已成为共识。总体上,国际上发生城市收缩的原因,主要在于,(1)全球化背景下从制造业到服务业的经济转型,以及由此造成的劳动力结构性失业和产业资本外流;(2)其他影响因素还包括郊区化、战争、自然或人为灾害、老龄化或低生育率,以及东欧国家社会主义制度的瓦解等。



Many cities across particular areas in Europe and North America have a dwindling population, emerging vacant spaces, and the underuse of existing urban infrastructure (Haase et al., 2014). As one of the more prosperous urbanized countries in the world, China has witnessed an unprecedented active stage of urban expansion (see the Beijing City Lab Ranking 8 for details,, which also attracted extensive attention from academics (Deng et al., 2010).


Our previous study on mushing Jiedaos (the basic administrative unit of a city proper) indicates that urbanization in China often involves a significant political dimension. Largely rural settlements (eg, Zhen) could be accorded with the city status (eg, Jiedao) overnight by administrative power, which further accelerates the urban process (Wu et al., 2015). 


Meanwhile, some large cities and inshore developed cities in East China have attracted huge numbers of migrants from rural areas and small cities during the last ten years. Vacant villages have been widely reported in the context of China (Long et al., 2012), while we observe a shrinking phenomenon at township and city levels. 


For all the townships in mainland China, we estimated their population (residents not Hukou) based on the Population Censuses of China in 2000 and 2010, respectively. We found that 19,882 among all 39,007 townships were losing their population during 2000-2010, and the total area was 3.24 million km2, which covered almost about one third territories of China (Figure 1). Those shrinking townships are distributed in both rural and urban areas. Among them are 1,147 urban townships with a total area of 47,420 km2 in 367 cities. 


Besides shrinking townships observed, we further identify 180 shrinking cities in China including one provincial capital city Urumqi, 40 prefectural-level cities and 139 county-level cities (Figure 1). In addition, we use a cartogram to reveal population density in 2010 at the prefectural level, based on which shrinking prefectures are mapped (Figure 2). 


More work is needed to understand these shrinking localities, the reasons behind the population falls, and possible policy tools. Both decision makers and city planners are accustomed to the urban growth and population increasing in China. We hope that these featured graphics will inform them of our findings. In addition, we have established the Chinese shrinking city research network ( for exploring this important issue via proposing necessary planning rules for shrinking cities. 

Decreased population density at the township and city levels

Related documents

Shrinking cities in a rapidly urbanizing China
Published in Environment and Planning A
Long and Wu 2016 EPA_Shrinking.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 303.8 KB
A Chinese paper Dr Ying Long published on the debate between urban expansion and population shrinkage
龙瀛 2015 探索与争鸣_扩张与收缩.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 873.0 KB
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.8 MB
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.7 MB
Conceptualizing urban shrinkage.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 446.4 KB
By The Economist
Rus in urbe redux _ The Economist.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.3 MB
Spatial metrics to study urban patterns
Adobe Acrobat Document 446.2 KB

Other papers/books

Shrinking Cities: International Perspectives and Policy Implications (Google eBook)

Shrinking Cities: A Global Perspective (Google eBook)

Shrinking City Studio @ MIT

Media coverage

龙瀛 2019 北京规划建设_收缩城市采访.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 652.3 KB
龙瀛 2019 城市中国_收缩城市采访.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.1 MB
2019.03 零点财经论坛:中国近千城镇人口萎缩,未来会不会出现“铁锈带”荒凉
Adobe Acrobat Document 520.6 KB
2018.03 Global Times:Smaller Chinese cit
Adobe Acrobat Document 585.9 KB
2019.03 EDGY:Data Shows One Third of Chi
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.1 MB
2019.03 The Greg Zone:China’s shrinking
Adobe Acrobat Document 568.3 KB
2019.03 Inkstone index: China’s shrinkin
Adobe Acrobat Document 182.8 KB
2019.03 智谷趋势:中国城市进入急速收缩的时代,一些注定将走向破败.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 8.0 MB
2019.03 新京报:“人才集聚”与“城市收缩”塑造中国城市未来格局.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.5 MB
2019.04 功夫财经:三四线,危矣!.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.5 MB
2019.04 21世纪经济导报:当城市不再长大:发改委文件首提收缩型城市,这意
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.2 MB
2019.04 《联合早报》:发改委宣布城镇落户限制大松绑 学者:全民有更公平发
Adobe Acrobat Document 666.8 KB
2019.04 上海金融与法律研究院:收缩城市,连抢人的资格都没有?.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 230.5 KB
2019.04 城市数据团:收缩城市:有抢人的,就有“丢人”的.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.3 MB
一席的PPT(Slides of Dr Ying LONG's Yixi Talk)
龙瀛的一席talk v3.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 13.4 MB
Our study has been reported by National Geographic
美国国家地理杂志NGM对中国收缩城市的报道:How millennials gr
Adobe Acrobat Document 5.7 MB

Qiqihar Case Study

Analysis on Variation of Quality of Street Space in Shrinking Cities Based on Dynamic Street View Pictures Recognition: A Case of Qiqihar

As the focus of urban planning in China converts from incremental planning to stock-based planning, researches concerning shrinking cities become increasingly important. Street being one of the basic elements of cities, the changes of spatial quality of it are essential to the evaluation of the changes of shrinking cities. This study uses street views from the Tencent Maps to evaluate the changes of quality of street space in the central districts of Qiqihar from 2013 to 2015. The research reveals that the quality of street space of Qiqihar is getting better while the rapid change of commercial real estate under residential buildings suggests a decline in economy. Based on this finding, the“Population-Economy-Space Decline Lagging Phenomenon”is proposed to illustrate the change mode of population, economy and spatial quality during the shrinking process of cities.

李智和龙瀛 2018 城市建筑_齐齐哈尔空间变化.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.7 MB

Shrinking Cities in China: The Other Facet of Urbanization



We have published a Springer book entitled "Shrinking Cities in China: The Other Facet of Urbanization". More information is available online at Springer (


This book offers an essential introduction to the phenomenon of shrinking cities in China, highlighting several case studies, qualitative and quantitative methods, and planning responses. As an emerging topic in urbanizing China, cities experiencing population loss have begun attracting increasing attention. All chapters of the book were contributed by leading researchers on the subject in China. Richly illustrated with photographs for a better visual understanding of the topic, the book will benefit a broad readership, ranging from researchers and students of urban planning, urban geography, urban economics, urban sociology and urban design, to practitioners in the areas of urban planning and design.

Long and Gao 2019 Springer_ShrinkingCiti
Adobe Acrobat Document 351.6 KB

Identifying Shrinking Cities with NPP-VIIRS Nightlight Data in China

Although there has been a rapid urbanization in China since the 1980s, the simultaneous urban shrinkage phenomenon has existed for a long time. The study of shrinking cities is particularly important for China as the current urban development has changed from physical expansion to built-up area improvement. After redefining what constitutes a city (what we term a natural city), we compared the adjusted nightlight intensity of National Polar-orbiting Partnership Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (NPP-VIIRS) data between 2013 and 2016 to accurately identify shrinking cities throughout China. The results indicate that there are 2,862 redefined natural cities in China and that the total area reaches 53,275 km2, about 0.5% of the national territory. Based on this, we identified 798 shrinking cities with a total area of 13,839 km . After analyzing the relative position of shrinking cities and internal shrinking pixels in the geometric space, the morphological characteristics of shrinking cities were systematically classified into six patterns. The majority of shrinking cities belong to scatter shrinkage, central shrinkage, and local shrinkage; only 5% are complete shrinkage; the rest are unilateral shrinkage and peripheral shrinkage. In addition, six shrinkage causes were quantitatively classified and summarized by referring to multiple-source urban data and municipal yearbooks. To enrich the methodological system for urban shrinkage, the research provides a reminder of the need to consider the other side of urbanization (i.e., dissolution of social networks) and proposes appropriate strategies and policies to address shrinkage issues. 


Jiang et al 2020 JUPD_ShrinkingCitiesIde
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.9 MB
We are sharing the GIS data (shrinking city distribution) derived from this paper here.
Compressed Archive in ZIP Format 22.9 MB

Shrinking cities on the globe: Evidence from LandScan 2000–2019

Shrinking cities have spread across the globe in recent decades, characterizing signifificant population loss, economic decline, and decay in spatial quality. To maintain global economic prosperity in the context of urban shrinkage and support decision making in the direction, it is necessary to accurately identify shrinking cities on a global scale. We utilize redefifined natural city boundaries and the LandScan dataset to identify and map shrinking cities experiencing population loss on the globe. As a result, we have identifified 5004 shrinking cities worldwide, with a total area of 126,930 km2 during 2000–2019. The ratio of which in number and in area is 27% and 22%, respectively. The shrinking cities are clustered and mainly located in Europe, Eastern Asia, and northeastern United States. There are 41 countries with more than 20 shrinking cities on the globe. The number of shrinking cities in China reached 679, which is the most. Among the 41 countries, the median value of the natural cities’ shrinking ratios of Iraq, Iran, Austria, South Africa, Russia, Georgia, and Belarus is >50%, indicating that the urban population loss in these countries is relatively serious. Our fifindings can be used to inform decision makers and urban planners to adjust the “growth-oriented” planning paradigm and adopt precise strategies, to form a healthier urban development.
Meng et al 2021 EPA_GlobalShrinking.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.4 MB
We are sharing the ShapeFiles for all natural cities and their population in 2000 and 2019
Compressed Archive in ZIP Format 929.0 KB