AuthorYin, Chengzhi
  1. Introduction

    In some developing countries, urban development within a certain period is deemed as the economic engine (Bertinelli and Black, 2004). The rapid urbanisation in China has had profound effects on the nation's economy, society and the environment in the past 30 years; however, it is still a controversial academic issue to discuss the driving forces embedded in both the endogenesis and the exogenesis. For decades, studies have investigated the measurement standards and the calculation methods of the floor area ratio (FAR) (Zou, 1994; Brueckner et al., 2017), primarily, focusing on the impacts of the rapid growth and the transfer modes of the FAR on land prices, housing prices, accessibility to transportation, human settlement and so on (Chen, 2005; Zhang and He, 2009; Bao and Li, 2010; Qin and Sun, 2010; Jiang et al., 2014; Zhao, Liu and Long, 2014). On the other hand, the market cannot adjust the FAR on its own (Yang, 2009). Therefore, the FAR is related closely to the political system arrangement of the governments. In this way, a very important question is raised: what determines the rapid increase of the FAR? Starting from the theoretical dialogue, this paper designs a rigorous experimental study to answer the question.

    In the second section, first, we refer clearly to other studies which try to explain rapid urbanisation and over speed building intensity growth in China and, then, carry on with the theoretical dialogue and, finally, posit the theoretical hypothesis. Local governments have been widely regarded as a powerful motor of the economic miracle (Montinola and Qian, 1995; Li and Zhou, 2005; Xu, 2011; Liu, Wu and Ma, 2012). Urban China has been reshaped by multiple complex institutional drivers to the rapid growth of building and land use. Moreover, in accordance with relevant acts and regulations on urban planning and construction permission, local governments are authorised to determine the size of land leasing and the relevant degree of building and land use. However, few studies have focused on the municipal top-down decision-making mechanism and its driving effect on the rapid growth of building and land use. The assumption that can be put forward is that local municipal governors, especially the Secretaries of Municipal Party Committees (SMPCs), are always willing to be promoted as they are in a competitive bureaucratic hierarchy. The distinctive and dynamic local decision-making driving force should be considered with an emphasis on decision weight. With the greatest decision making power in urban governance in theory and practice, the SMPCs have been selected as the representatives of the decision makers of local governments. The newly increased floor area could work as a fair indicator of the degree of building and land use. We posit three research hypotheses after the literature review and the theoretical dialogue. In the third section, a rigorous quantitative research design is conducted in accordance with the preconditions of the research hypotheses. First, a recursive statistical model is given. Then, the variables are defined and sampling work is done. Finally, the variable selection is explained.

    In the fourth section, on the basis of the panel data of 35 large- and medium-sized Chinese cities from 2000 to 2014, Stata 14.0 has been applied to implement a regression analysis. This panel data cover all the relevant available data publicised. It is encouraging that the statistical results verify the hypotheses posited in the article. In the fifth part, the important findings of the article are given, and further discussions and conclusions are made in the sixth part. In short, the study could be an explanation for China's high-speed spatial urbanization from a public administration point of view and a practical understanding of the Chinese decision-making mechanism in urban development.

  2. Literature review, theoretical framework and hypothesis

    In the past 20 years, Chinese literature on urban studies has focused on the urbanisation, physical development, spatial scale, as well as the degree of building and land use. The concept of space and spatial utilisation has been embedded in the concept of urbanisation (Yew, 2012). The degree of building and land use reflects and affects urbanisation. Urbanisation is a necessary stage for the development of productive forces to a certain extent, which promotes productivity to continue to show explosive growth (Sovani, 1964; Coffey and Polese, 1984; Harloe, 1988; Henderson, 2002; Smith, 2010, p. 121). It took only decades for the Chinese to achieve the level of urbanisation that western countries have managed to achieve in centuries. Why is China's urbanisation so fast? What is the driving force behind this rapid transition in such a large country? It is not hard to find out. By combing almost all the literature that answers this question, China's rapid urbanisation is a combination of multiple complex institutional drivers and people's increasing consumer demand. Below, we will analyse carefully the institutional impetus of this complex state, market and social interaction logic, and further find new authoritative explanatory variables in the analysis.

    Institutional momentum is a defensible interpretation. The complex system is embedded in the hands of local government (Zhang and Xie, 2006). A volume of theoretical models has disclosed the impacts of municipal governments on local urban development under the bureaucratic assessment of political performance, such as the Chinese federalism (Montinola and Qian, 1995), the promotion tournament model (Li and Zhou, 2005) and the central-local, political centralisation and economic decentralisation model (Xu, 2011). In short, the nesting of these systems includes several aspects. First, the local government formulates the urbanisation strategy and urban plans that can have a definite impact on the rates of urbanisation and trends in urban growth (Todaro, 1980; Ichimura, 2003; Wu, 2007). Driven by market-oriented development and globalisation, the local government attempts to overcome the constraints of conventional statutory planning to promote a visionary city plan, which reflects the overall shift of city planning towards being an important instrument for enhancing a city's competitive ability (Wu and Zhang, 2007). Second, local government has the power to allocate land and to determine the land use type (Ho and Lin, 2003; Lichtenberg and Ding, 2009; Tao et al., 2010). It is not difficult to understand that local governments can easily change rural land into urban development land with the institutional power, which will ensure the spread of the city. Because of the land price, the land acquired for construction can be used to build high-rise buildings only. Third, the Chinese household registration system or Hukou is in the hands of local governments, which can determine the size of urban population, the mode of population movement and the speed of population movement (Chan and Zhang, 1999; Chan and Buckingham, 2008; Wu and Zheng, 2018). The most reasonable excuse for urbanisation is provided by population mobility. Fourth, local governments are responsible for attracting investment and for leading urban development (Yeh and Wu, 1996; Xu and Yeh, 2005; Shen, 2007; Zhu and Tang, 2018). Because of local governments' partnership with banks, developers dominated by local governments can easily get funding, thereby accelerating the speed of urban development.

    Complex institutional nesting seems to be successful because it caters to people's needs. People yearn for the modernisation, convenience and civilisation of cities, they want to create a fair competition platform for the next generation (Hu and Su, 2013; Wang, 2017; Chen and Liu, 2018). Mills (2010) studied whether the market can create optimal urban density, and found that population transfer is often forced in America. However, the transfer of population is voluntary in China in most cases. It can be concluded that people's willingness to move into cities is compatible with the local government's system design.

    The analysis unit of all the above literature is local government, and the incentive mode is economic incentive. If so, how to ensure that local government operations are efficient or that government will not fail? The real reason is the decision-making responsibility of the municipal party committee that is firmly in the hands of the SMPCs, and the incentive method for them is not an economic incentive but a political incentive. Decision-making responsibility of SMPCs' avoids the complexity of local government decision-making, which accelerates the physical urbanisation. From the perspective of political competition in the Chinese bureaucratic system, we can put forward the assumption that local municipal governors, especially the SMPCs, are always willing to be promoted as they are in a competitive bureaucratic hierarchy. As the reform and opening-up policy has been introduced in China, marketisation has become the focus of economic development, and the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) is considered a core index in the assessment of the local government performance. In this context, to gain more political capital for a higher official position in a short time, municipal governors tend to make fixed-asset investments to enhance economic development, which...

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