Spatial dynamics of infrastructure development: Using 65 years of evidence from China

Xi Hu, Theodor Cojoianu, Jim Hall, Jiashun Huang, Raghav Pant, Jianxiong Sheng, Ruoran Zhao

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

This study develops an analytical framework of infrastructure development in space and through time. We argue that infrastructure development is an interplay of exogenous and endogenous processes. Using 65 years of evidence from China as a case study, we demonstrate the heterogenous temporal and spatial evolution of the drivers that led to distinct outcomes and identify four distinct phases. Phase I (1949-1979) was dominated by exogenous processes, with the state playing a leading role. In Phase II of its transition (1980-2000), China embraced a hybrid model of state-guided embrace of globalization which resulted in export-led development and drove infrastructure eastwards. Tracking 25 years of China’s Five Year plans, we discuss Phase III (2001-2015) whereby the role of endogenous processes increased, leading to a more domestic-driven model pushing infrastructure growth westwards. Recent policy documents reveal a fourth Phase (2016 and onwards) characterized by commitments to sustainable infrastructure. Subsequently, we test the strength of the drivers empirically and regional effects on infrastructure growth using negative binomial regression. We find that economic growth and population dynamics significantly drive infrastructure development. In addition, regional effects demonstrate that geographical constraints determine the type of infrastructure. Lastly, we discuss the heterogeneous spatial implications of China’s infrastructure transitions. Hotspot analysis is used to identify areas that exhibit statistically significant clustering in the spatial pattern of infrastructure concentrations and examine the ways in which the endogenous and exogenous processes have resulted in the spatial unevenness, spatial clustering, and spatial shift of the infrastructure assets and networks.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Dec 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • infrastructure
  • spatial dynamics
  • economy and space

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