Investigating institutional integration in the contexts of Chinese city-regionalization: Evidence from Shenzhen–Dongguan–Huizhou

Xianchun Zhang, Yi Sun

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


By synthesizing European Union (EU) and China's experiences, we extend the focal points of city-regional development from western contexts to China through developing a triadic conceptual framework of institutional integration. We identify the inter-scalar politics, development of city networks, and non-state domain involvement are three critical components to institutional integration of China. Through a case study of Shenzhen–Dongguan–Huizhou (SDH), one emerging city-region in the Greater Bay Area of China, data from social media and official documents using textual analysis and in-depth interviews are deployed. We find that inter-scalar politics is not always prone to facilitating integration-oriented cooperation. Although jurisdictional (re)adjustment creates some ad hoc jurisdictions to streamline inter-governmental relations in areas with fragmented administrative divisions, the adjustment itself creates institutional complexity due to competition between those ad hoc and original jurisdictions. In terms of development of city networks, Shenzhen connects closely with its neighboring cities, despite the fact that links among neighboring cities are loose. Areas of cooperation in SDH emphasize economic development, coordinated urban management, and activities under the city-helps-city schemes. Municipal governments play an active role in the expansion of city networks and the selection of cooperation areas. Non-state domain involvement is confined to activities in relation to social affairs, which, compared with economic and rule-establishment related activities, continue to lag far behind.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104170
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • City networks
  • Institutional integration
  • Inter-scalar politics
  • Non-state domain
  • Shenzhen–Dongguan–Huizhou

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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