What Is the Efficiency of Fast Urbanization? A China Study

Yitian Ren, Heng Li, Liyin Shen, Yu Zhang, Yang Chen, Jinhuan Wang

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Urbanization is commonly described as the process of population flow from rural to urban areas. As the largest developing country, China has experienced an unprecedentedly fast and large urbanization process since 1980s, which will continue for the coming future. The immense scale of the process has brought multidimensional benefits across all sectors in the country, yet also consumed a vast amount of resources and caused various types of environmental problems. The conflict between limited resources and an unstoppable urbanization process has become a pressing issue, which presents the urgent need for efficiency pursuance in the process of urbanization in order to ensure sustainable urban development. It is considered that the improvement of urbanization efficiency in large developing countries such as China has great implications for global sustainability. There is little existing study conducted to understand what efficiency achieved in the current fast urban development era in China. This study investigates the urbanization efficiency and its changes in the contemporary China. A set of input-output indicators are employed for analyzing the efficiency, in which both desirable and undesirable outputs are considered. The Super-efficiency Slack-based Measure (SBM) model and DEA-based Malmquist Production Index (MPI) are adopted collectively for conducting data analysis. The research is conducted at provincial level in China and the data collected for analysis are from 30 provinces for the period of 2006–2015. The results from this study show that the overall urbanization efficiency in China during the surveyed period is low, although certain improvement has been achieved. The difference between good and poor performers is considerable. In general, those provinces with better social and economic background have better urbanization efficiency performance. East China is much better than the rest of China, whilst Southwest region has the poorest performance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2018


  • urbanization efficiency
  • input-output indicators
  • desirable and undesirable outputs
  • Super-SBM model
  • Malmquist productivity index
  • China


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