Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 47–70 | Cite as

Interprovincial Migration, Regional Development and State Policy in China, 1985–2010

  • Ye Liu
  • John Stillwell
  • Jianfa Shen
  • Konstantinos Daras


Internal migration in China occurs as a result of both market forces and government interventions. This paper investigates how indicators of migration have changed over the past quarter of a century using data from successive censuses, with particular attention given to the roles of regional economic development and national policy and the effects of age and education on spatial patterns of migration. The results show a surge in migration throughout the period, an increasing concentration of migration destinations and an improvement of migration efficiency prior to 2000, but a decreased focusing of migration during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Widening regional disparity has been responsible for a sharp increase of migration from the interior to the coast, and different national economic growth poles emerged as major migration destinations at different stages of economic reforms. The analyses of age- and education-specific migration flows indicate that young adults were more mobile and more sensitive than older cohorts to interregional economic differentials, and that educated migrants were more concentrated than less-educated migrants since knowledge-based industries were more concentrated than labour-intensive industries. Our findings suggest that massive eastward migration induced by unbalanced economic development and relaxed migration restrictions still persisted in the 2000s, and that the State’s recent efforts to alleviate regional inequalities were far from achieving equilibrium in the migration system.


Internal migration Regional development State policy China 



This paper is based on research funded by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong SAR (RGC Project No. CUHK451912) and the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation (Project No. 41271163). The migration indicators have been computed using the IMAGE Studio being developed as part of the IMAGE project funded by the Australian Research Council (see under the directorship of Professor Martin Bell at the University of Queensland. The first author would like to thank School of Geography, the University of Leeds for hosting his visit during 2013 when the research for this paper was carried out.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ye Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Stillwell
    • 3
  • Jianfa Shen
    • 2
  • Konstantinos Daras
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Resource ManagementThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  3. 3.School of GeographyUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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