A Core-Periphery Model of Urban Economic Growth:
Empirical Evidence using
Chinese City-Level Data, 1990-2006

Zhao Chen
Ming Lu
Zheng Xu

October 2011


The core-periphery (CP) model of urban systems lacks evidence from real data for the nonlinear relationship between distance to core and market potential. China remains in the process of industrialization and globalization, thereby making it suitable for practical application of the CP model of urban systems. Using Chinese city-level data from 1990 to 2006, this paper estimates the impact of spatial interactions in China's urban system on urban economic growth, and fills the gap between CP model of urban systems and reality. Our results show that a proximity to major ports and international markets is essential for urban growth. Moreover, the geography-growth relationship follows the U-shaped nonlinear pattern implied by the CP model in a monocentric urban system. We also find a “border effect” in the administrative boundaries between Chinese provinces. As a centrifugal force, this prevents the absorption of urban economic activities by large cities in other provinces.

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