GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2018, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (7): 1364-1376.doi: 10.11821/dlyj201807009

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Competitiveness and function specialization of national central cities in China: An empirical study based on headquarters of China's pubic listing firms

Fenghua PAN(), Bofei YANG   

  1. Beijing Key Laboratory of Environmental Remote Sensing and Digital Cities, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2017-12-19 Revised:2018-04-02 Online:2018-07-30 Published:2018-08-03
  • About author:

    Author: Shi Zhenqin (1988-), PhD, specialized in regional development and land space management in mountain areas. E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Deng Wei (1957-), Professor, specialized in mountain environment and regional development.



National central cities have strong competitiveness and specialized functions in selected sectors. Headquarters are the command and control centers of firms and the quantity of headquarters of large firms in a city reflects the city's commanding function. Thus, it is ideal to use the distribution of large firms' headquarters to measure national central cities' competitiveness and specialized functions. Based on a dataset of China's public listing firms, this paper explores the commanding functions of Chinese cities and their evolutions by calculating the command and control index (CCI). The empirical results show that (1) Beijing and Shanghai are the two most powerful command and control centers in China. Beijing obtained a significant increase in command function during 2005-2014, while Shanghai's CCI decreased. The rise of public listing firms from the finance sector contributes most to growing CCI of Beijing. (2) The finance and manufacturing are the two sectors with the highest CCI in China. The finance sector has gradually taken the leading role in determining a city's command role. According to the analysis of the national central cities, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have obvious advantages in most industries and are nationwide comprehensive big city. The functional specialization of central cities in the remaining five national central cities is relatively low. In addition, there are obvious differences in the inter-linkages between the development of the central cities of eight national central cities and the surrounding areas. The reason for this is the extent of regional economic development and the characteristics of urban industrial development.

Key words: national central city, city competitiveness, public listing firms, headquarters, city function