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Population distribution and urbanization on both sides of the Hu Huanyong Line: Answering the Premier’s question

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In late November 2014, while attending a science exhibition on human settlement at the National Museum, Premier Li Keqiang posed a question to society and scientists regarding the Hu Huanyong Line, which the media subsequently dubbed “the Premier’s question”. This increased awareness and interest in the Hu Huanyong Line and launched a lively debate which provoked a variety of views. In an attempt to address the Premier’s question, this paper firstly reviews the origins of the Hu Huanyong Line, named after the famous population geographer who proposed it in 1935 as part of a wider debate on domestic overpopulation. Using demographic data from China’s first, fifth and sixth censuses, as well as the ArcGIS platform, we analyze the size, proportion and density of populations in the areas southeast and northwest of the Hu Huanyong Line, showing that urbanization and migration have not changed the pattern of population distribution observed by Hu Huanyong. Based on this, we suggest that the pattern of a dense population southeast of the line and sparse population northwest of the line will not fundamentally change for a relatively long time, nor will the situation of urban agglomerations being mainly found in the southeastern region. We also argue that climate and other physical geographic conditions determine that the Hu Huanyong Line shall remain in place. We believe that the question posed by Premier Li Keqiang is solvable, and that with positive policy guidance and rational spatial organization, the northwestern region can achieve more modernization and better quality urbanization, while the same is true for the central region.

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Correspondence to Hua Zhang.

Additional information

Foundation: National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41671125, No.41601121; Programme of Bingwei Excellent Young Scientists of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, No.2015RC202; National Science and Technology Support Program, No.2012BAJ15B02

Chen Mingxing (1982–), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in urbanization and regional development.

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Chen, M., Gong, Y., Li, Y. et al. Population distribution and urbanization on both sides of the Hu Huanyong Line: Answering the Premier’s question. J. Geogr. Sci. 26, 1593–1610 (2016).

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