The Development of New Central Business Districts (CBDs) in China: Development Model and Dynamics

Department: Urban Planning and Design
Research Centre: Centre of Urban Studies and Urban Planning
Active Dates: 30 June 2017

Principal Investigator: Anthony G.O. YEH (PI)

Funding body: General Research Fund (17603617)


Since economic reforms in 1978, China’s economy has transformed from industry, to services, and now to producer services. As a result, the urban landscape has changed significantly. Central business districts (CBDs) have been one of the most visible new urban landscapes in many Chinese cities. Different from those in Western cities, many recently developed CBDs have been built in new business districts rather than developed in the old city propers. For the development of a new CBD, how to fill the office spaces is often a major problem worldwide. However, in China, the state plays a significant role in the planning and development of these new CBDs. State Own Enterprises (SOEs) are often used as pioneer firms to be first located in the new CBDs for attracting other firms to be located subsequently in them. The objective of this study is to examine the development dynamics of new CBDs in China by testing a proposed Public Enterprise-Led Model which uses SOEs as catalyst for attracting other firms in their early years of development.  A quasi-experimental staging time-series research design will be used in the study by examining whether there is a development pattern of succession of ownerships, types, sizes, and investment sources of producer service firms in the new CBDs that were developed in different periods of time. It will use Chinese economic census at multiple years to reconstruct the profile of producer service firms in the new CBDs to examine the process of spatial concentration and succession of firms. The research will help to identify the role of SOEs in triggering off the spatial concentration process. It will examine the development process, characteristics and dynamics of firm succession. The project will study four cities that developed new CBDs in different time periods, namely Shanghai (Lujiazui financial and trade zone in the 1990s), Guangzhou (Pearl River New Town in the 2000s),  Nanjing (Hexi new business district in the 2000s), and Shenzhen (Qianhai in the 2010s). Besides using economic census to examine the proposed Public Enterprise-Led Model and business succession,  in-depth interviews with government officials and managers of SOEs and non-SOEs will be conducted to understand the planning process and development dynamics of these new CBDs. The study will contribute to our understanding of the development of post-industrial spaces in China and rethinking of the role of the state in constructing new CBDs in other countries.

The Development of New Central Business Districts (CBDs) in China: Development Model and Dynamics 1