Urban planning and sustainable development under transitional economy: A case study of Guangzhou

Yong Li, Chi Wai Yeung, William Seabrooke

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


There are always conflicts between the need for conservation and economic growth in the developing countries. Planning plays a primary role in balancing these conflicts. This is particularly obvious in Chinese cities since China adopted its open door policy in 1978. Foreign investment has been a major driving force for rapid growth of the Chinese economy. Planners in China have been facing the dilemma of protecting the natural environment on the one hand while, on the other hand, supporting the overall national goal of attracting foreign investment to maintain continuous economic growth. The planning system in China, which has been largely based on a planned economy, soon found itself handicapped in safeguarding the environment from rapid industrialization and urbanization fostered by market forces. This paper takes Guangzhou as an example to study challenges to the planning system in Chinese cities in the past two decades of rapid economic growth and urbanization. By means of a case study on an industrial development within a protected orchard area in Guangzhou, this study illustrates the conflict between the need for rural conservation and the pressure for economic development in the Chinese cities. In particular, it analyzes the pressures on the present urban planning system in China in terms of the following categories: the emergence of private investors in urban development; the goal of pursuing a high economic growth rate; the implications of a transitional economy for urban planning; and the weakness of the present urban planning system. It concludes that the role of urban planning in China should change from simply providing guidelines on board land-use strategy, to a combination of a strategic plan with specific development control laws at the operational level. Finally, some recommendations are suggested as to how to improve the planning system in China.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-313
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2005


  • China
  • Conservation
  • Guangzhou
  • Sustainable development
  • Urban planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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