GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (5): 1003-1015.doi: 10.11821/dlyj020180868

• Urban Research •     Next Articles

Spatial structure and evolution mechanism of municipal districts in China

Jianhua ZHU1(), Wei QI2, Chunliang XIU3()   

  1. 1. School of Geographical Sciences, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. Northeastern University JangHo Architecture College, Shenyang 110819, China
  • Received:2018-08-28 Revised:2019-04-03 Online:2019-05-13 Published:2019-05-14


It is a law that different urban scales have different modes of administrative division in the development of cities. In China, with the rapid development of urbanization, the number of municipal districts in the city increased quickly, and meanwhile, the spatial structure of municipal districts changed continuously. However, the related research is scare. In this paper, six theoretical spatial structure models of administrative division of municipal districts were generalized, including circle type, combination type, parallel type, independent type, enclosed type and enclave type. Besides, main characteristics of the six types of municipal districts spatial structure were summarized. Through the analysis of the distribution pattern and evolution of China's current municipal districts, we find that the larger the scale of China’s cities, the greater the number of municipal districts, at the same time, the greater the population density. In terms of spatial distribution, we find cities of circle type gather in the eastern region, the cities of combination type are densely distributed in the northeast region, the cities of independent type are mostly distributed in the central and western regions, the cities of enclosed type are mostly distributed in the central region, and the cities of parallel type and enclave type are evenly distributed in the whole country. The general evolution path of municipal district spatial structure is “independent type - parallel type - combination type - circle type”. Spatial structure of cities of circle type will continue to be optimized. Through “the merger of inner city, the expansion of outer city”, the city transforms second circle to third or fourth circle. Finally, the paper analyzes the factors which influenced the adding, splitting and merging of the administrative division adjustment. The main factors of adding municipal districts include the level of economic development, the increase of urban population and land demand, traffic location, topography and administrative status and boundary. The main factors of splitting municipal districts include too large an area and a population, natural geographical conditions and transformation of new district and the open economic zone to municipal districts. The main factors of merging municipal districts include small-scale municipal district, functional orientation and policies.

Key words: municipal district, administrative division, spatial structure, urban size rank, influential factors