Re-examination of Zipf's law and urban dynamic in China: A regional approach

Xinyue Ye, Yichun Xie

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46 Scopus citations


Recent efforts have been made to interpret spatial-temporal evolution of urban system using Zipf's law. The debates remain whether Zipf's law holds true for large and diverse countries with long urbanization history, and how varied geographical settings with different socioeconomic conditions affect city-size distributions. This research investigates China's urban system dynamics through expanded Zipf's law at national and regional level. First, the paper revisits urban system dynamic theories and recent applications of Zipf's law. The city data from 1960 to 2000 are then used to analyze rapid changes of urban systems in China through Zipf's plots of cities over the entire nation and in six macro regions, respectively. The paper also examines top ten city rank changes nationally and regionally to examine temporal trajectories of key cities and the impacts on urban systems over space. Three types of Zipf's law reflections are found over six China's macro regions, based on the similarities of temporal dynamics of urban systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-156
Number of pages22
JournalAnnals of Regional Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Social Sciences


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