The Politics of Metropolitan Bias in China
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CitationJaros, Kyle Alan. 2014. The Politics of Metropolitan Bias in China. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractPolicymakers in China and other developing countries grapple with a metropolitan dilemma. Building on the existing advantages of leading cities makes it easier to achieve fast, visible progress in economic development. But further concentrating resources in top urban centers can marginalize other areas, worsen urban congestion, and increase inequality. The degree to which governments favor key metropolitan centers relative to other cities and outlying areas in the distribution of policy support and resources is thus a consequential issue in development politics. Yet, scholars lack a systematic understanding of "metropolitan bias," and existing theories have difficulty explaining wide variation in development approaches over time and across regions in countries like China.
This project analyzes variation in development strategies across China's provinces during the 1990s and 2000s to shed light on the nature and sources of metropolitan bias. Existing research generally views favoritism toward large cities as an unintended consequence of rapid industrialization and rent-seeking dynamics. In contrast, I highlight more strategic efforts by higher-level governments to shape the growth of cities and regions, and probe the politics surrounding spatial development policies. First, I argue that metropolitan bias tends to be greater in provinces that have experienced lagging economic performance, where policymakers build up top cities as a means of enhancing regional competitiveness. Second, I argue that metropolitan-oriented development has been driven in large part by provincial governments, and that there is greater metropolitan bias where the provincial level is strong relative to other government tiers.
To develop and test these claims, I employ a mixed-method research design and draw on Chinese- and English-language written sources, interview material, and statistical data. Through comparative case studies of Jiangsu, Hunan, and Jiangxi provinces and analysis of China's policy institutions, I explore how different explanatory factors influence the formulation and implementation of development strategies. Meanwhile, I use statistical analysis to test how well key claims generalize to a larger sample of units. Beyond contributing in a timely way to our knowledge of the politics behind China's urban boom, the study advances our theoretical understanding of the politics of state-led development and multilevel governance more broadly.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13064986
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