Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 78 ›› Issue (4): 811-823.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202304003

• Urban and Regional Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Dynamics of developmental vitality and equilibria of counties in China based on nighttime lights data

LIU Lingcen1(), SUN Zhongxiao1, WU Feng2, LI Yuheng3, ZHANG Qian1()   

  1. 1. College of Land Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. Key Lab of Regional Sustainable Development and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2022-02-26 Revised:2022-10-28 Online:2023-04-25 Published:2023-04-14
  • Contact: ZHANG Qian;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(71774151);National Natural Science Foundation of China(42171208)


Eliminating inequality and achieving balanced development is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Accurate measurement of development equilibrium is a primary scientific problem to be solved urgently. Nighttime lights data have been proven to be a good proxy for economic activity, and they have been used widely due to their advantages of convenient acquisition and wide spatial coverage. Therefore, in this study, we applied the Gini coefficients derived from nighttime lights data and pixelized population data to evaluate the development equilibria for China's 2900 counties from 2002-2020. We then examined the nexus of the development equilibrium and developmental vitality represented by the average nighttime lights intensity within each county. The results showed that the Gini coefficients based on nighttime lights data have generally been decreasing for 96% of the counties in China during 2002-2020. Moreover, in general, the Gini coefficients present a spatial pattern of being lower in the east and higher in the west. The results illustrate the synergetic development pathways of economic growth and equilibrium promotion of the economically developed counties, although the variation of their equilibria is significant. On the contrary, there is still distinct room for improvement of development equilibria for 60% of the economically underdeveloped counties in China. The results provide scientific support for achieving balanced development and promoting common prosperity in China.

Key words: Gini coefficient, equilibrium, nighttime lights data, spatiotemporal dynamics, counties in China