Mapping urban networks through inter-firm service relationships: The case of China

Fenghua PAN, Wenkai BI, James Hans LENZER JR, Simon ZHAO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Literature on how cities get connected through networks of firms has been increasing in recent years. In particular, advanced producer service (APS) firms are being widely used to build intra-firm linkages to establish urban networks. In contrast to studies applying intra-firm networks, this study proposes an alternative strategy to build urban networks based on inter-firm service provision relationships during the process of initial public offering (IPO) in which APS firms – including securities, law firms and accounting firms – provide professional services for firms aiming to be publicly listed. Based on service provision connections between APS firms and their clients, this study provides fresh insights on urban networks in China. The results show that Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai strategically hold dominant positions within Chinese urban networks and they are the lead command and financial centres within the country. Particularly, Beijing has overwhelmingly more influence over other cities. The urban networks are embedded in China’s unique institutional context where market and state power together have shaped these networks. Since the urban network is built up based on real economic linkages, the findings might have further implications for policy-making and could contribute to ongoing debates regarding financial centres in China. It implies that connections between firms based on real economic activities can be an effective way to construct urban networks in future research. Copyright © 2017 Urban Studies Journal Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3639-3654
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number16
Early online dateJan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


Pan, F., Bi, W., Lenzer, J., & Zhao, S. (2017). Mapping urban networks through inter-firm service relationships: The case of China. Urban Studies, 54(16), 3639-3654.


  • Advanced producer service
  • Initial public offering
  • Inter-firm network
  • Publicly listed firms
  • Urban network


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