PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2014, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (9): 1177-1186.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2014.09.005

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Multi-scale and multi-mechanism analysis of the spatial pattern and temporal change of regional economic development disparities in Zhejiang Province

Xinyue YE1,2(), Jingjing LI1, Yeqing CHENG3()   

  1. 1. Center for Yellow River Civilization and Sustainable Development, Henan University, Kaifeng 475001,Henan, China
    2. Kent State University, Department of Geography, Kent 44242, the United States
    3. College of Geography and Tourism, Hainan Normal University, Haikou 571158, China
  • Online:2014-09-25 Published:2014-09-25


Issues of regional economic development disparity have been particularly important in China, which inherited an spatially unbalanced economy from its imperial history and as a vestige of a past troubled by colonialism, civil wars, and pestilences. Zhejiang Province is an important eastern Chinese province. It has long been noted for the production of green tea, silk, and aquaculture. Since the launch of the economic reforms in 1978, Zhejiang has been experiencing a dramatic process of triple transition (decentralization, globalization, and market reforms). It has followed an entrepreneurial economic development model that has made it a prosperous center of small industries geared to export of consumer goods, in particular toys and textiles. Zhejiang's transition towards a market-oriented economy has been spectacular. However, Zhejiang Province also faces serious challenges from regional development disparity due to the differences of infrastructure development, proximity to markets and coastal areas, natural resource endowments, demographic factors, and regional policies. Spatially evident unevenness and instability in regional wealth distribution has been one of the most salient features of regional development in Zhejiang.
Since the 1990s, spatial disparity of economic development in Zhejiang and China has further intensified. Geographers are involved in the development-related discussions and are intrigued by questions such as identifying regions or places that are rich or poor and determining causal factors. Questions such as: Is geographic disparity widening and why? What can be done to reduce poverty and spatial disparity? Will wealth be shared by people in all regions and places? Since regional disparity may threaten national unity and social stability, it has become a burning issue in China, attracting considerable attention from policy makers and scholars. Following the multi-scale and multi-mechanism framework, this article analyzes the spatial-temporal dynamics of regional disparities in Zhejiang across spatial scales. The results show that: (1) regional disparity is sensitive to the geographical scales. It is more pronounced at finer spatial scales. (2) Economic situation presents a rich-poor gradient from the northeast to the southwest. The rich and poor counties have a strong tendency to remain as such and their surrounding areas tend to become more similar with them in wealth status. In addition, the less developed counties are more likely to fall into a "poverty trap." (3) Regional economic development of Zhejiang Province displays strong spatial dependence and self-reinforcing clustering. Using a multi-level model, the study further shows that regional disparity in the province is sensitive to both core-periphery structure and time. Globalization is the dominant driving force of regional disparity, and decentralization is the important mechanism for forming the core-periphery structure. Developing a market economy has the potential to mediate the uneven development driven by the spatial concentration of foreign investment. This article empirically analyzes the core-periphery model of the new economic geography from an evolutionary perspective, verifying the model's applicability in China, challenging the neoclassical growth theory that emphasizes free mobility of capital and celebrates the long-term convergence. The author holds that the geographical and political preferences of global capital will widen the regional economic gaps. In addition, inequality between urban and rural areas is also an important aspect of disparity in the development of Zhejiang Province. Achieving a more balanced territorial distribution of wealth is among the biggest challenges for regional economic development policy design in Zhejiang and China.

Key words: economic development disparity, multi-level model, Markov chains, Moran's I, Zhejiang Province

CLC Number: 

  • F293.35