Elijah Knaap, Chengri Ding, Yi Niu, Sabyasachee Mishra

Polycentrism as a Sustainable Development Strategy

We present in this paper an analysis of economic centers and their role in shaping employment development patterns and travel behavior in the state of Maryland. We begin by identifying 23 economic centers in the Baltimore-Washington region. We then examine these centers first in their role as centers of economic activity then in their role as nodes in the state’s transportation system. Finally, we identify the commute sheds of each center, for multiple modes of travel and travel times, and examine jobs-housing balance within these various commute sheds. We find that Maryland’s economic centers not only promote agglomerative economies and thus facilitate economic growth; they also generate a disproportionate number of trips and promote transit ridership. These results provide empirical support for policies that promote polycentric urban development, and especially policies that promote polycentric employment development. Further, they suggest that polycentrism as a sustainable development strategy requires careful coordination of regional transportation systems designed to balance jobs and housing within a center’s transit commute shed. Based on these findings we recommend that the Maryland state development plan and regional sustainable communities’ plans across the nation should encourage the concentration of employment within economic centers and encourage housing development within the transit commute sheds of those centers.

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Chengri Ding and Xingshuo Zhao

Land Market, Land Development and Urban Spatial Structure in Beijing

The paper first examines urban spatial patterns of the gradients of housing and land prices and land development intensity, and then tests the relationship between the land price gradient and housing price gradient. Urban theory predicts the former is steeper than the latter based on the notion of derived demand for land from the provision of housing services. Finally the paper examines the impact of the property of housing production function on urban spatial structure. For the property of housing production function, we are particularly interested in the elasticity of capital-land substitution. The paper concludes 1) market influences over spatial structure, 2) the derived demand for land, and 3) it is the actual (or expected) housing price increases that cause skyrocketing land prices, not the other way around.

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Chengri Ding

Land and Development in China

In the past a couple of decades perhaps there are no other countries like China in which land is so controversial and commands so much attention in policy arena.  Land plays important role in national policy agenda in ways that there is unprecedented in human history.  Land is not only used as a policy instrument to achieve social, economic and environmental development goals, but more importantly attached to many socioeconomic expectations that are root causes of or associated with many prominent issues and challenges.  So the questions arise: 1) what makes land distinctive? (2) what roles do land play in national policy; and (3) what are issues and challenges caused by or associated with land?  This essay will answer these questions in a concise way. 

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Chengri Ding, Yi Niu, and Gerrit-Jan Knaap

Employment Centers and Agglomeration Economies: Foundations of a Spatial Economic Development Strategy

Previous research provides evidence that jobs and firms in U.S. metropolitan areas are concentrated in economic centers, creating a polycentric urban form. Previous research also suggests that firms realize localization economies when they locate near other firms in the same industry and urbanization economies when they locate near firms in other industries. In this article, we tie these concepts together in an exploration of the spatial distribution of employment in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Our analysis suggests that the spatial distribution of employment in Maryland is characterized by the existence of concentrated employment centers that create a polycentric urban form. What is more, we find these centers provide both urbanization and localization economies as well as unspecified locational advantages.

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Ding, C., Y. Wang, and C. Liu

Exploring the influence of built environment on tour-based commuter mode choice: A cross-classified multilevel modeling approach

Understanding travel behavior and its relationship to urban form is vital for the sustainable
planning strategies aimed at automobile dependency reduction. The objective of this study
is twofold. First, this research provides additional insights to examine the effects of built
environment factors measured at both home location and workplace on tour-based mode
choice behavior. Second, a cross-classified multilevel probit model using Bayesian
approach is employed to accommodate the spatial context in which individuals make
travel decisions. Using Washington, D.C. as our study area, the home-based work
(Home-work) tour in the AM peak hours is used as the analysis unit. The empirical data
was gathered from the Washington-Baltimore Regional Household Travel Survey
2007–2008. For parameter estimation, Bayesian estimation method integrating Markov
Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling is adopted. Our findings confirmed the important role
that the built environment at both home location and work ends plays in affecting commuter
mode choice behavior. Meanwhile, a comparison of different model results shows
that the cross-classified multilevel probit model offers significant improvements over the
traditional probit model. The results are expected to give a better understanding on the
relationship between the built environment and commuter mode choice behavior.

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Chengri Ding

Transportation Development, Regional Concentration and Economic Growth

“New Geographic Economy” suggests an inverted-U shaped relationship between transport costs and regional economic concentration.  By using data on Chinese prefectures, this paper examines the relationship between transportation development and economic concentration, to investigate the “point effect” and “network effect” of transportation stocks and to gauge their relative magnitudes.  The paper concludes the followings: (1) development of urban roads leads to rising GDP shares in the city proper for both manufacturing and service industries.  Major regional roads have the same effect; (2) “point effect” is found for both urban roads and major regional roads in GDPs; (3) there are spillover effects for both urban roads and major regional roads; and (4) different types of transportation infrastructure have different economic impacts.  The policy implication is that the urban-rural economic growth gap likely continues to increase with urban and regional transportation development during the rapid urbanization concurrently undertaken. 

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Ding, Chengri

Building height restrictions, land development and economic costs

Beijing has a unique spatial pattern that is characterized by an inverted U-shape building height curve and geometrically developed transportation network (rings of highways and axial roads). The inverted U-shape curve of building heights is mainly the outcome of building height restrictions in inner city for historical preservation. This paper estimates the economic costs of the building height restrictions by using land development data. Through comparing land development without building height restrictions and simulations, we show that the economic costs are substantial. The impacts of the building height restrictions include land price decrease by up to 60%, housing output decrease by up to 70%, and land investment decrease by 85%. To accommodate the loss of housing output, the city edge has to expand, causing urban sprawl (given all other things equal). In order to offset building space reduction, housing prices rise by 20% and the city edge expands by 12%. Finally, induced travel costs resulting from urban sprawl and low density caused by building height restrictions may not be trivial.

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Chengri Ding and Shunfeng Song

Traffic Paradoxes and Economic Solutions: Policy Implications to China

Previous studies on traffic congestion have emphasized supply-side instruments, such as the expansion of road capacity and improving the management of traffic. However, researchers on transportation have identified several paradoxes in which the usual remedy for congestion—expanding the road system—is ineffective or even counterproductive. This paper presents three paradoxes of traffic flow in their general form and provides economic solutions to overcome them, with an emphasis on demand-side policies by examining the behavior of commuters and using pricing mechanisms.

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Chengri Ding and Xingshuo Zhao

Assessing Urban Spatial Growth Patterns in China during Rapid Urbanization

The enormous success of the Chinese economy has caused remarkable urban spatial expansion, resulting in new urban forms and reshaped city profiles. This article assesses emerging urban spatial forms that are prevalent and sizable enough to have a substantial impact on transportation, the environment, and urban sustainability. Special economic zones (SEZs), university towns, central business districts (CBDs), and mixed land development in terms of urban agglomeration, transportation, and land use externality are examined. It is concluded that efficient gains would be significant if SEZs are integrated with each other as well as with the city proper, university towns are developed to accommodate no more than a couple of colleges, and CBDs are concentrated with high-value activities. It is further concluded that mixed land use may not be an appropriate policy instrument to promote smart growth in Chinese cities because of the high degree of existing mixed land-use patterns.
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Chengri Ding and Xingshuo Zhao

Urbanization and Policy in Japan, South Korea and China

Countries in Far East Asia (China, Japan and South Korea) have or are experienced periods of rapid economic growth that is accompanied by fast urbanization in the past half century. These countries illustrate urbanization patterns that are similar to some part in the world, but are distinguished by strong national efforts in containing large city’s growth. China has introduced a specific urbanization strategy that favors small city growth while South Korea adopted national policies including the most-famous greenbelt to redirect urban growth from the Seoul Metropolitan Areas. Although these countries adopted national policies for similar objectives, different approaches and instruments are used. This chapter will review urbanization patterns and then carefully examine national urbanization strategy and policy. Based on contrast and comparison, impacts of national policy on urbanization are assessed and evaluated to draw lessons along with policy recommendations and implication. 

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Chengri Ding and Erik Lichtenburg

Land and Urban Economic Growth in China

Land to accommodate urban development in China is provided through requisitions by government officials, suggesting that land availability may be a constraint on urban economic growth.  An econometric model of urban GDP growth suggests that land has constrained economic growth in coastal areas but not elsewhere.  Elasticities calculated from the estimated coefficients indicate that land availability has a larger proportional impact on economic growth than domestic and foreign investment, labor supply, and government spending.  The estimated parameters provide evidence about arbitrage opportunities created by discrepancies between urban land value and compensation for requisitioned rural land, suggesting rural unrest associated with conversion of farmland to urban uses may have some economic roots.

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Erik Lichtenburg and Chengri Ding

Local Officials as Land Developers: Urban Land Expansion in China

We investigate conceptually and empirically the role of economic incentives in the primary land allocation in China in recent years.  A theoretical analysis demonstrates how recent fiscal and governance reforms give rise to land conversion decisions and long run urban spatial sizes that respond to economic incentives even though the allocation of land between urban and rural uses is determined administratively.  An econometric investigation of China’s coastal provinces finds that changes in urban area are increasing in the value of urban land and budgetary government revenues and decreasing in the value of agricultural land, results consistent with the theoretical analysis. 

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Chengri Ding

Policy and Planning Challenges to Promote Efficient Urban Spatial Development During Rapid Transformation in China

This paper investigates the linkage between emerging urban spatial development and institutional arrangements in China. Emerging spatial patterns, which are prevalent and sizable so that any impacts will be substantial, include dispersed employment concentration, fragmented land development, over-scaled land development, leapfrogging development, and whack-a-mole development. From the institutional aspects, these patterns are associated with decentralization, fiscal incentives for local government, land regulations, and fragmented planning system. It is concluded that these emerging spatial patterns significantly affect long term city sustainable growth and comprehensive reforms are needed to promote efficient urban spatial forms. It is further concluded that labor division between planning and markets should be reshaped in determining urban spatial growth by shifting planning to focus on zoning that provides sufficient development room in a long term and making markets to decide the timing of land development.

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Song, Y., V. Zenou, and C. Ding

Lets Not Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water: The Role of Urban Villages in Housing Rural Migrants in China

In the era of China’s economic growth and urbanisation, providing adequate and affordable housing for rural–urban migrants in urban areas is crucial for the success of China’s multifaceted reforms. Yet the urban housing provision system has overlooked the needs of rural migrants since the reforms. Urbanising villages, a unique product of China’s urbanisation and land reform, provide affordable housing for rural migrants. However, these urbanising villages are rejected by policy-makers due to their associated social and environment problems. In this paper, a multinomial logit model of housing type choice is adopted, in which people choose from a number of mutually exclusive housing types. Regression results indicate that rural migrants are shunned by the urban housing market. It is argued that, without accompanying programmes that include rural migrants in the urban housing market, policies that focus on demolishing urbanising villages could be misguided.

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Shih-Kung Lai, C. Ding, Po-Chun Tsai, I-Chih Lan, Minsheng Xue, Ching-Pin Chiu, Li-Guo Wang

A game-theoretic approach to urban land development in China

The property rights approach to urban development has recently been proposed in the planning literature to explain how urban systems self-organize spatially and institutionally. The land-tenure system is one of the key factors affecting land use and thus urban development. It is not clear, however, how such a factor affects the process of urban development. This research aims to provide reasonable explanations as to how the land-tenure system in China in general affects urban development, by building game-theoretic models which include plans as a manifestation of information and property rights as a manifestation of land-use rights. Viewing regulated development as a collective good, the model is based on the prisoner’s dilemma game, where the local government regulates and the developer makes development decisions. Preliminary results show that land rights in the transitional economy of China are of paramount importance and must be clearly specified in order to make the land development process efficient at reducing transaction costs.
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Chengri Ding

Policy and Praxis of Land Acquisition in China

Land acquisition is the primary means used by governments to meet increasing land demand driven by rapid economic and urban growth in China. Since development is prohibited on non-state-owned land, land acquisition in which landownership is converted from collective communes to the state shall take place prior to any land construction. This paper reviews institutional structure governing land acquisition in pre- and post-reform eras and examines consequences and impacts associated with or derived from land acquisition. It is concluded that land acquisition (1) has been used heavily by local governments to fuel urban development and finance infrastructure provision and (2) has resulted in increasing social tension and injustice that may impose a long-term threat to stability and sustainable
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Song, Y., C. Ding and G. Knaap

Envisioning Beijing 2020 through Sketches of Urban Scenarios

To provide the decision-makers in Beijing, China, with an assessment of alternative development futures, we introduce scenario planning to process of drafting Beijing’s 2020 Plan. The sketches of scenarios for Beijing are fruitful in several ways. First, the development of scenarios can meet the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning (BMCUP)’s needs to explore different urban development options. Second, scenario planning can accommodate uncertainty in economic and population growth caused in part by China’s rapid social and economic transformation. Third, in the course of creating evaluation framework to assess scenarios, scenario planning informs decision-makers about choices regarding predicted outcomes. We demonstrate that in a city that is experiencing unforeseen growth in the era of transformations, the decision-making process can be informed by evaluating the performance of alternative development scenarios.

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Erik Lichtenberg and Chengri Ding (2005)

Assessing Farmland Protection Policy in China

The government of China has had pronounced concerns about its ability to continue feeding a growing population since the mid-1990s, when Lester Brown (1995) predicted that China would soon need to resort to grain imports on a scale massive enough to cause severe disruptions in world markets. Like Lester Brown, the government of China targeted conversion of farmland to industrial and residential uses, especially in the most productive agricultural regions, as the chief threat to the nation’s continued capacity to produce adequate levels of staple cereals. According to official government statistics, China lost over 14.5 million hectares of arable land between 1979 and 1995. While those losses were partially counterbalanced by the addition of 10.1 million hectares of arable land from reclamation activity, that additional arable land was lower in quality and located in areas with less favorable climatic conditions, suggesting that the loss of agricultural production capacity exceeded the net loss of arable land (Ash and Edmonds 1998). Farmland land losses on such a scale could well be significant for China: Even though it has a territory roughly equal in area to that of the United States, only about a third of that land area can be utilized productively for agriculture.

The government of China responded to these food security concerns by introducing a number of measures aimed at protecting farmland, especially farmland with the greatest production potential. Nevertheless, land planted to the staple cereal crops wheat and rice has continued to fall, as has the amount of “cultivated” land. For example, yields and sown area of wheat and rice, the principal staple food grains, peaked in 1997 and has fallen steadily since (Economic Research Service).

This paper assesses the performance of China’s farmland protection policies in light of its food security goals. We begin with a description of those policies. We then examine the extent to which those policies address actual losses in food production capacity. Next, we consider whether farmland protection is the most efficient—or even a necessary—means of meeting China’s food security goals. Finally, we discuss inefficiencies in farmland conversion, examine previously unrecognized causes of excessive land conversion and unintended consequences of China’s farmland protection policies, and discuss implications for future policy development.

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Erik Lichtenberg and Chengri Ding (2005)

Farmland Preservation in China: Status and Issues for Further Research

China has been gravely concerned about its ability to meet its food security goals in coming years, triggered by an apparent rapid decline in cultivated land and exacerbated by declines in the production of the principal food grain crops. The central government has responded by adopting measures aimed at stabilizing major crop production and maintaining China’s agricultural land base. Careful examination of the evidence suggests that concerns about farmland preservation have been misplaced. There is little evidence of a growing threat to China’s ability to meet its food security goals. Food security needs have been changing due to income growth and urbanization; corresponding shifts in cropping patterns account for much of China’s loss of land planted to major crops. Most observers believe that water and R&D rather than land are the limiting factors in China’s ability to meet food security goals. Maintaining strong agricultural research, development, and extension programs is of paramount importance if China is to keep crop production growth on a par with population growth. Institutions for irrigation and drainage management have fallen into decay and irrigation and drainage infrastructure has fallen into widespread disrepair as a result. Reforming these institutions so that irrigation and drainage become self-sustaining economically is of critical importance. Lack of transportation and storage infrastructure, especially cold storage, reduces productivity by keeping post-harvest losses high and by creating disincentives for farmers to expand production. Finally, inconsistent government policies have reduced productivity by hampering farmers’ ability to plan and by creating conflicting incentives.

While the loss of cultivated land does not appear to be the critical nexus of China’s food security problems, there do appear to be substantial inefficiencies in land allocation generally and farmland conversion in particular that have significant social costs, including—but not limited to—adverse effects on the maintenance of China’s food production capacity. The root cause of these inefficiencies is the lack of institutions that force agents making land use decisions to take the opportunity costs of land into full account in those decisions. Farmland tenure is one such area. Insecure tenure reduces incentives to invest in maintaining and enhancing land productivity. It also limits exploitation of economies of scale by preventing the use of land rentals to consolidate small plots into sufficiently large operating units. Consolidation is likely to be increasingly important for retaining farmland in areas experiencing rapid economic growth where urban employment prospects are rapidly shrinking the farm labor force. An equally important set of issues pertains to the demand for farmland conversion on the part of local governments. The system of local government finance and policies governing residential construction actively encourage farmland conversion even as explicit land use policies attempt to discourage it.

Research conducted jointly by the Lincoln Institute and China’s Ministry of Land and Resources can help identify promising avenues for policy innovation, develop longer run collaborative relationships, and build policy analytic capability in China. Several potential research projects seem especially well-suited for such purposes. Three possible projects are discussed in detail.

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