Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2006, Vol. 61 ›› Issue (10): 1011-1024.doi: 10.11821/xb200610001

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Rise of New Special Development Zones and Polarization of Socio-economic Space in Xi'an

WANG Hui   

  1. Dept. of Urban & Resource Science, Northwest University, Xi'an 710069, China
  • Received:2006-05-17 Revised:2006-07-25 Online:2006-10-25 Published:2006-10-25
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40271046; No. 40310104018; Project of the Ministry of Education, No.01JC790012


New Special Development Zones (NSDZs) have become a distinctive, popular, significant urban development model, also been an activator of urban transformation, in China's opening and reform era. Taking the city of Xi'an as a case, through analyzing the NSDZs' particular operation mechanisms and structural features, such as their privileged status as "special policy districts", their competitive economic structure as "new economy" space, and their strategies of commercial housing development together with industrial development, the impacts of NSDZs on the ongoing socio-economic polarization of Chinese cities are underlined and discussed in this paper based on a variety of data sources and from a multi-dimensional perspective. The empirical results in Xi'an show that: (1) Because of the more favorable conditions and milieu created by the "special policy district" treatment, the NSDZs have become the major attraction to the construction of the capital and other investments, with the results that the NSDZs, compared with the "normal" areas in the city, have generally experienced a much faster economic growth as well as spatial expansion with more advanced infrastructure and better quality of built-environment. These make the NSDZs economically and physically outstanding from the rest part of the city. (2) The NSDZs have become the most concentrated area of knowledge-based, technology-intensive, world-market-related "new economies". This advantage of economic structure has not only become another reason for NSDZs' rapid economic growth, but also made the NSDZs special social areas with an obviously higher proportion of well-educated and highly-paid people. (3) The comparatively better quality of living environment and higher price of commercial housing developed in NSDZs have made the NSDZs a special new residential area of 'purer' private-property owners, and accordingly, more wealthy residents. Along with this, an income-based residential segregation is becoming manifest in the city. (4) In contrast to the above processes, the old areas (especially the old industrial sections) of the city have relatively fallen backward because of less investment, less productivity, less "new economies", and more low-income people. The spatial disparity within the city is therefore increasing. These facts indicate that the polarization of urban socio-economic space has been intensified with the rise of NSDZs. The findings and arguments of this research will be helpful for a better understanding and evaluation of the NSDZs-dominated urban development model existing in many Chinese cities.

Key words: new special development zones, urban socio-economic space, polarization, Xi’an