GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2016, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (2): 242-255.doi: 10.11821/dlyj201602004

• Perspectives and Contention • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Mechanism of oasis urbanization: A theoretical framework based on complexity theory

Haimeng LIU1,2, Chuanglin FANG1(), Hanying MAO1, Peiji SHI3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • Received:2015-06-14 Revised:2015-12-18 Online:2016-02-20 Published:2016-03-07


Oasis cities are the most concentrated zones of human activity and the most vulnerable places in the arid region of northwest China. The urbanization rate rose from 15% at the beginning of the reform and opening up to 44.75% in 2013. Oasis urbanization is a typical complex giant system, featured with nonlinearity, self-organization, self-adaptability, fluctuation and feedback. Research on the mechanism of oasis urbanization is significant for the planning and construction of new-type urbanization in China's arid areas. Based on complexity theory, we analyzed the generation, evolution and transformation process of oasis urbanization, and built the theoretical framework of oasis urbanization evolution mainly from three dimensions of the emerging generation, coordinated sustenance and critical phase transition innovatively, by using proper concepts like emergence and synergism and the model of basin of attraction, according to which the Northam Curve was reinterpreted. The study indicated that: (1) Oasis city is an entire structural and functional emergence phenomenon of a human-centered oasis region system from the perspective of multiple spatial and time dimensions, and its formation conditions include generating subjects, self-organization and limited formation mechanism and environment policy. (2) Competitive and synergic mechanisms keep the vitality and evolution stability of the oasis urbanization system, which is the basic motive force of the system evolution. According to the synergetics theory and dissipative structure, we build the synergy degree and order degree of oasis urbanization evolution to recognize the evolution direction of such system. (3) Oasis urbanization process is also essentially a self-organized critical phase transition, which is the dialectical unity in the aspects of rheology and mutation, order and chaos, stability and non-stability. (4) The positive and negative feedback mechanisms in space and time improve the complexity and order of oasis urbanization, which approaches to the state of self-organized criticality; meanwhile, the vitality and diversity of urbanization system are reinforced in this process. Furthermore, the complex system models, such as multi-agent model, the complex adaptive system model, bionic calculation and social computing, will play an important role in the research of urbanization simulating and forecasting.

Key words: oasis urbanization, complexity theory, new-type urbanization, emergence, synergism, basin of attraction, Northam Curve