Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 76 ›› Issue (4): 835-852.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202104005

• Urban Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Connectivity characteristics for city networks in China based on innovative enterprises

HUANG Xiaodong1,2,3(), MA Haitao4(), MIAO Changhong3   

  1. 1. School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
    2. Institute for Global Innovation and Development, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    3. Key Research Institute of Yellow River Civilization and Sustainable Development, Henan University, Kaifeng 475001, Henan, China
    4. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2019-10-16 Revised:2020-09-24 Online:2021-04-25 Published:2021-06-25
  • Contact: MA Haitao;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971209);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41571151)


Improving the connectivity of multi-sector enterprises at a cross-regional level can enhance knowledge and technology transfer and stimulate innovation and synergies among cities. Therefore, the study of city networks, which comprise a large number of multi-sector enterprises, can provide an important knowledge base for innovation and development at the regional and national levels. Based on an evaluation of innovative enterprises in China by authoritative institutions, data were collected on 1778 multi-sector enterprises, which included details on the headquarters, the branches (a total of 30,625) and the locations. A city-based network for the country was established, using the data for the multi-sector linkages and a model for the headquarters-branches, to explore the network connectivity characteristics via social network analysis, the GIS method and the spatial interactive model. The results showed that (1) although the network covered 353 cities across China, the spatial distribution of the network was extremely uneven. For instance, a diamond-shaped connectivity pattern emerged gradually as the network hierarchy decreased. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta were found to be the three key hubs of the network. (2) The intercity linkages between innovative enterprise sectors (innovative enterprise flows), had a clear administrative center and a provincial boundary effect. Moreover, the innovative enterprises were strongly attracted to the municipalities and provincial capitals. Beijing was at the heart of the network, followed by Shanghai and Shenzhen. (3) Differences existed in regional connectivity. There was a striking difference between the eastern region and the central-western region. The former had a high connectivity with respect to both the internal and the external networks, while the latter had lower connectivity for the internal network but a higher connectivity at the external level. At the same time, although the network structures for all the three eastern megalopolises showed strong cohesion, their connectivity characteristics were quite different. (4) The input and output of innovative enterprise flows were to varying degrees influenced by the indicator attributes for each city, and these in turn were related to the administrative hierarchy, the economic strength and the innovative environment of the region, as well as proximity indicators, which were related to geographical, technological and institutional factors. Foreign capital was not conducive to innovative enterprise flows and to the formation of innovative intercity company-based networks in China.

Key words: innovative enterprise, city network, collaborative innovation, innovation pattern, China