PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2016, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (1): 47-56.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2016.01.006

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Applicability of the new standard of city-size classification in China

Wei QI1,2,3,4(), Shenghe LIU1,2,*(), Haoran JIN1,2,3   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Nature Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4. UMR Géographie-cités, CNRS, Paris 75006, France
  • Online:2016-01-31 Published:2016-01-31
  • Contact: Shenghe LIU;
  • Supported by:
    Key Project of NationalNatural Science Foundation of China, No.71433008;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41271174


The new standard of city-size classification in China that divides all cities into five categories and seven subcategories, which was published in 2014, has gained popular attention. However,there have been various results of city-size classification due to different interpretations of the new standard. This article compares the new standard with the old standard and analyzes the city-size hierarchy of China in 2010 to evaluate the applicability and limitations of the new standard. The results show that the new standard has improved significantly over the old standard by changing the definition of population statistics, definition of urban space statistics, and the classification standard. Comparing the classification results based on the new and the old standards as well as other methods, the number of megacities and big cities reduced significantly while the number of small cities increased. The new result shows a clear pyramid structure of city sizes, which conforms to the central place theory and the rank-size rule. Thus, the new standard provides better guidelines to city management. According to the 6th census data in 2010, China has 12 megacities, 58 big cities, 93 medium-size cities, and 493 small cities. The majority of the higher rank cities are located in national-level urban agglomerations in southeastern China. However, the new standard also has some limitations. Urban resident population statistics that is a key in the new standard are often unavailable in non-census years, and the classification result is affected by adjustments of urban administrative boundaries. Further research on urban area identification and data sharing is urgently needed.

Key words: city-size hierarchy, new standard, classification, applicability, China