Urban growth in Chengdu, western China: Application of remote sensing to assess planning and policy outcomes

Annemarie Schneider, Karen C. Seto, Douglas R. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


The majority of studies on Chinese urbanization have been focused on coastal areas, with little attention given to urban centers in the west. Western provinces, however, will unquestionably undergo significant urban change in the future as a result of the 'Go West' policy initiated in the 1990s. In this paper the authors examine the relationship between drivers of urban growth and land-use outcomes in Chengdu, capital of the western province of Sichuan, China. In the first part of this research, remotely sensed data are used to map changes in land cover in the greater Chengdu area and to investigate the spatial distribution of development with use of landscape metrics along seven urban-to-rural transects identified as key corridors of growth. Results indicate that the urbanized area increased by more than 350% between 1978 and 2002 in three distinct spatial trends: (a) near the urban fringe in all directions prior to 1990, (b) along transportation corridors, ring roads, and near satellite cities after 1990, and, finally,(c) infilling in southern and western areas (connecting satellite cities to the urban core) in the late 1990s. In the second part of this paper the authors connect patterns of growth with economic, land, and housing market reforms, which are explored in the context of urban planning initiatives. The results reveal that, physically, Chengdu is following trends witnessed in coastal cities of China, although the importance of various land-use drivers differs from that in the cast (for example, in the low level of foreign direct investment to date). The information provided by the land-use analysis ultimately helped tailor policies and plans for better land management and reduced fragmentation of new development in the municipality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-345
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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