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 (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)

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

澎湃新闻 Pengpai in Chinese (中国的“收缩城市”有哪些?)


A brief survey on shrinking cities in China

This brief survey may take about five minutes. Welcome your input!


Dr Brent Ryan's lecture at Tsinghua University

Lecture title

Development After Decline: Top Down and Bottom Up in Shrinking Cities


Lecture abstract

Declining or shrinking cities have many difficulties: loss of jobs and economic productivity, social problems like unemployment, and physical problems like abandonment of buildings and brownfield or industrial facilities. This lecture reviews two broad approaches to revitalization in shrinking cities: top down planning, in which government and major actors like private developers play an important role in financing and constructing projects, and bottom up planning, in which citizens and local community groups take their own action to solve problems. The lecture reviews the experience of Detroit, Michigan, a famous shrinking city in the United States that has pursued both top down and bottom up approaches by constructing sports stadiums, new factories and office buildings, as well as large new parks together with small scale citizen actions like urban agriculture and small scale housing. The lecture concludes by evaluating the usefulness of top down versus bottom up approaches for urban planners, urban designers, and political officials. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages and different cities need to find different balances to arrive at the right approach.


The audio recording file is available on request via

Adobe Acrobat Document 243.3 KB
Adobe Acrobat Document 195.2 KB

Urban growth and shrinkage: A forum held on the annual conference of urban planning in China 2016


A summary of this forum
Adobe Acrobat Document 341.6 KB