china’s rapid urbanization


This research aims to improve our understanding of China’s extraordinary social, economic and environmental transformation and its impact on urbanization across the country. Given the size and scale of China’s urban development – urban populations have more than doubled during the last 30 years, and more than 70% of economic activity is now located in cities – urban environments are playing an increasingly important role in daily quality-of-life issues, ecological processes, climate, flows of materials, and land transformations. In order to confront the environmental consequences of urbanization at local to global scales, we need to monitor urban expansion and provide projections of its influence into the future.

Our research program has three main components:

1. Detect, measure, and characterize the rates and patterns of land use change in China’s rapidly developing urban system, focusing specifically on 15 urban corridors;
2. Explain rates and patterns of urbanization based on variations in socioeconomic and demographic structure, policy initiatives and land management, infrastructure development, domestic and foreign investment; and
3. Use these empirical mapping and modeling results to predict possible trajectories of urban development and test alternative policy scenarios.

Recent publications

Schneider, A., Chang, C., Paulsen, K. (2015). The changing spatial form of cities in Western China. Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 135, p. 40-61.

Mertes, C.M., Schneider, A., Tan, B., Sulla-Menashe, D., Tatem, A.J. (2015). Detecting change in urban areas at continental scales with MODIS data. Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 158, pages 331-347.

Alix-Garcia, J., Schneider, A., Zhao, N. (2015). Playing favorites: Tax incentives and urban growth in China, 1978-2010. Land Economics, accepted.

Huang, X., Schneider, A., Friedl, M. (2015). Mapping fractional urban cover in China using MODIS time series and DMSP/OLS nighttime lights. Remote Sensing of Environment, in review.

Schneider, A., Mertes, C. (2014). Expansion and growth in Chinese cities, 1978-2010. Environmental Research Letters, vol. 9, 024008.

Schneider, A. (2012). Monitoring land cover change in urban and peri-urban areas using dense time stacks of Landsat satellite data and a data mining approach. Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 124, pages 689-704.

Click here for additional publication information.


Available datasets

To download maps of urban expansion for a sample of regions in China, click here.

Research questions

How are cities in China changing? What factors have contributed to the differential patterns of urban expansion and population growth across coastal and western China?

Research team

Annemarie Schneider, Kurt Paulsen, Karen Seto, Jianfa Shen, Jennifer Alix-Garcia, Carly Mertes, Xiaoman Huang, Zhiwei Ye, Chaoyi Chang, Na Zhao

Similar projects

the 40 cities project

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