Modern Chinese cities are defined from the administrative view and classified into several administrative categories, which makes it inconsistent between Chinese cities and their counterparts in western countries. Without easy access to fine-scale data, researchers have to rely heavily on statistical and aggregated indicators available in officially released yearbooks, to understand Chinese city system. Not to mention the data quality of yearbooks, it is problematic that a large number of towns or downtown areas of counties are not addressed in yearbooks. To address this issue, as a following study of xxxx et al. (2016), we have redefined the Chinese city system, using percolation theory in the light of newly emerging big/open data. In this paper, we propose our alternative definition of a city with road/street junctions, and present the methodology for extracting city system for the whole country with national wide road junctions. A city is defined as “a spatial cluster with a minimum of 100 road/street junctions within a 300 m distance threshold”. Totally we identify 4,629 redefined cities with a total urban area of 64,144 km2 for the whole China. We observe total city number increases from 2,273 in 2009 to 4,629 in 2014. We find that expanded urban area during 2009 and 2014, comparing with urban areas in 2009 are associated with 73.3% road junction density, 25.3% POI density and 5.5% online comment density. In addition, we benchmark our results with the conventional Chinese city system by using yearbooks.
The last several decades have witnessed a rapid yet uneven urban expansion in developing countries. The existing studies rely heavily on official statistical yearbooks and remote sensing images. However, the former data sources have been criticized due to its non-objectivity and low quality, while the latter is labor and cost consuming in most cases. Recent efforts made by fractal analyses provide alternatives to scrutinize the corresponding “natural urban area”. In our proposed framework, the dynamics of internal urban contexts is reflected in a quasi-real-time manner using emerging new data and the expansion is a fractal concept instead of an absolute one based on the conventional Euclidean method. We then evaluate the magnitude and pattern of natural cities and their expansion in size and space. It turns out that the spatial expansion rate of official cities (OCs) in our study area China has been largely underestimated when compared with the results of natural cities (NCs). The perspective of NCs also provides a novel way to understanding the quality of uneven urban expansion. We detail our analysis for the 23 urban agglomerations in China, especially paying more attention to the three most dominating urban agglomerations of China: Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (BTH), Yangtze River Delta (YRD) and Pearl River Delta (PRD). The findings from the OC method are not consistent with the NC method. The distinctions may arise from the definition of a city, and the bottom-up NC method contributes to our comprehensive understanding of uneven urban expansion.