Chinese Political Science Review

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 195–210 | Cite as

‘National Level New Areas’ and Urban Districts: Centralization of Territorial Power Relations in China

  • Miguel Hidalgo Martinez
Original Article


The central government established Pudong in Shanghai as the first national-level new area (new area). It replicated this territorial experiment in major cities, particularly during the last decade. As territories directly under the supervision of the central government, new areas receive large amount of preferential funding and exercise sub-provincial-level powers over land use change, infrastructure development and taxation. However, new areas are not the same territory located in different cities, but territorial configurations that heterogeneous nested hierarchies of power constitute. This paper conceptualizes new areas as dynamic centralizing strategy of the central government towards urban governance. During the last decades, the central government has established an increasing number of urban districts, enhancing the administrative capacities of city governments. New areas are part of this strategy by which the central government is gradually reconfiguring cities. This paper adopts a geographical approach to analyze territorial change in China as the underlying political dynamic that governs intertwined processes of investment and production that ultimately materialize urban transformation. New areas, as territorial strategies, propel further rounds of administrative centralization that extend the scope of urbanization. The introductory section of this paper presents a preliminary discussion about the political and economic context in which the central government designed and implemented new areas as a national strategy of development. The second section discusses new areas in relation to the power relations they form with other administrative territories in cities. Further rounds of land redistricting in the context of new areas are discussed in the third section. Finally, the last part of this paper remarks the importance of the central government in shaping urban transformation through territorial reforms.


New area Urban district Centralization Territorial power relations 


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Copyright information

© Fudan University and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018
corrected publication April 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Xi’an Jiaotong - Liverpool UniversitySuzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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