Producing nature for public: Land-based urbanization and provision of public green spaces in China

Y. Wendy CHEN, Zhiyong HU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)


The landscapes and infrastructures of cities have long been viewed as products of human–nature interaction. This paper sheds new light on how a critical constituent of urban landscape and infrastructure, urban public green spaces, has been produced in China's ongoing profound urbanization process. Over the past decade, China's urbanization has been characterized by a land-based pattern centered on the commercialization and capitalization of urban land induced by the decentralization of state power. The non-budgetary revenues generated from urban land leasing hold the promise to empower local governments' fiscal capacity and flexibility in financing various urban infrastructures aiming to enhance local amenities and attract external investment. This paper investigates the impact of land-based urbanization on the provision of urban public green spaces, an integrated part of urban public infrastructure, using panel data across 285 Chinese prefecture cities from 2002 to 2009. The results reveal a negative relationship between the reliance on land finance and the amount of urban public green spaces, indicating that local governments' pursuit of maximizing land lease revenue will not be able to finance more public green spaces, and may even cause the loss of public green spaces. The regional variations amongst the eastern-coastal, central, and western cities confirm that an initially positive relationship between land finance and the provision of urban public green spaces at the early stage of development would reverse to a negative relationship with the increasing pace of urbanization and economic development, which may lead to a social inequity pertaining to public accessibility to urban green spaces. A balance amongst economic growth, environmental concerns, and social equity is very much needed in the quest for sustainable development. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-40
JournalApplied Geography
Early online dateFeb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


public lands
local government
economic development
public finance
panel data
regional difference
green space


Chen, W. Y., & Hu, F. Z. Y. (2015). Producing nature for public: Land-based urbanization and provision of public green spaces in China. Applied Geography, 58, 32-40.


  • Land-based urbanization
  • Public green space
  • Land finance
  • Urban green infrastructure
  • China