The article analyses how cities in China have been transformed by applying four theories. These are: modernization theory, dependency/world system theory, the theories of developmentalist state, and post-socialist transition theory.
The modernization theory gives two aspects to explain how theoretical approaches affect the cities of China. The first aspect is the emergence of a market economy such that the large and midsize state companies in China provide a valuable perspective during the process. The second aspect is the relationship between urbanization and demographic transition. Since urbanization is an important part of industrial development, the increase of population is a key outcome but the rapid rural-urban migration could threaten the economy, contrary to modernization theory. However, China is the ideal model of this case due to the governmental controls on both migration and population growth through the hukou (registration) system.
The dependency and world system theory is focus on the economic and political relationships between China and other countries in the world. In the 19th century, China depended on trade and investment from foreign countries. However, after World War II, China developed a defensive attitude towards the West and turned into self – development situation. In fact, China had tense relations with the Soviet Union. China developed self-reliant domestic development during the Cultural Revolution era.
China became a developmentalist state after the 1978 reforms. China realized that it could rely on the unique capital recourses that could not be found in other third world countries. Following the models of other successful countries which relied on export industries such as Japan, China’s government initiated structural changes that led to the participation of China in the capitalist world economic system. This helped in driving economic development of China. For instance, capital investments in Chinese property markets have attracted foreign investors.
Post-socialism transition theory
Unlike other countries of the global south, China has moved from being a socialist economy to quasi-capitalism. The article suggests two theories that can be used to explain the changes of China from a socialist to a capitalist society. These theories are: socialist urbanism and market transition. Partial reforms in China have also led to the abandonment of socialist institutions. However, the influence of the state is still common. The continuity of government intervention is seen through the Communist Party rule which causes interference in the private sector through public agencies. The public sector continues to play a major role in land use and development which were previously market-driven. The intervention of the state has influenced choices made sin the economy.
The article also argues that none of the above approaches fully explain China’s urban transformations today. Modernization is considered more reliable on the basis of its insights, despite its age and the attacks it has endured over time (Logan and Fainstein, 2008). However, its determinism of economic stages makes it less applicable to the transformation of China’s urban cities. World system theory does not also apply in the case of China because it relies on world politics. Developmental state approach also provides a bad image concerning the capacity of the state. Lastly, post-socialist approach does not apply due to the concept of socialist legacies common in the theory.
There are features that make Chinese cities different from other major world cities. The three factors that make Chinese cities unique are: explosive growth, increased levels of new construction in terms of buildings and infrastructure, and the state of immigration. Construction of many technology parks, subways, bridges, factories and office developments has made the country a unique one in terms of urban and city development. The difference between Chinese cities and other cities is also seen through the socialist history and state intervention of China.