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Economic Development and Land-Use Conversion in the Main Course Area of the Yangtse River Basin

Développement économique et conversion de l'usage des sols dans la région du cours principal du Yangzi
Lei Zhang
p. 13-18

Résumés

En tant qu’éléments clés du milieu naturel, les ressources foncières et leur exploitation jouent un rôle très important pour promouvoir l’industrialisation régionale. Celle-ci a abouti non seulement à l’exploitation accélérée des ressources foncières, mais aussi à une évolution rapide de la structure spatiale de l’utilisation du sol. Comme il l'a été constaté à travers l’industrialisation à grande échelle dans le bassin du Yangzi. Les analyses intersectorielles montrent que, pendant un demi-siècle de développement économique, le facteur prédominant qui influence et conditionne l’utilisation des terres cultivées est l’industrialisation rurale et non pas l’urbanisation dans les régions fluviales du cours principal du Yangzi. Ainsi, dans le processus d’industrialisation de ces régions fluviales, la réorganisation spatiale de l’utilisation du sol est fortement liée à l’industrialisation rurale. En revanche, l’urbanisation régionale joue un rôle beaucoup moins important. C’est la raison pour laquelle la réorganisation spatiale de l’industrialisation régionale, notamment de l’industrialisation rurale, constitue l’objectif à atteindre en matière d’exploitation des terres cultivées dans l’avenir.

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Notes de la rédaction

Acknowlegement: This study is supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (References: KCXZ2-307-01 and 2001-2-12)

Texte intégral

1Economic development in any country or any region means not only a long process of structural transformation of social production through rising gross domestic product and income per capita, but also a long process of structural transformation in material inputs through reallocating natural resources (Cipolla, 1962). Land, as a crucial element and a key factor of resource inputs in social production, is always the most telling witness of such transformations.

2China, one of the largest countries in the world, has a total area of 9 600 000 km2, but only 13.5% (1 300 000 km2) of China’s territory is cultivated land. This implies that the cultivated land per capita is only 0,106 ha, or 43% of the world average (The International Bank, 2000). With rapid industrial development and population growth, land scarcity in China has now become an increasingly important issue, particularly true in main valley of the Yangtse River Basin (YRB).

3The main valley of the YRB is the largest inland artery of China. Draining about 15,5% of the country (about 1,5 million square kilometers), the main valley of the YRB is home to nearly 38% of the country’s total population (more than 478 million inhabitants) and produced 41% of China’s total GDP in 2000 (at 2000 price). In fact, the Yangtse River Basin has been exemplary of land use changes in China following the national structural economic transformation in the past, and will continue to be so in the future (Zhang et al., 2003).

Figure 1: The sketch map of the Yangtse River Basin

Figure 1: The sketch map of the Yangtse River Basin

Economic development: a general review

4Since the new Republic was founded in 1949, China set itself the  task of developing a modern industrial sector, similar to the industrial revolution which started in western countries almost 200 years ago (Chenery et al., 1986; Feuchtwang et al., 1988).

5Due to initially unfavourable development conditions, both domestic and international, China’s regional development policy before 1980 was set on the three principal targets: reinforcing agricultural development to improve food security, building up heavy industry in certain areas to meet the whole country’s growing needs for raw materials and equipment; and locally developing so-called light industry at the provincial level to maintain a basic supply of manufactured goods for daily use (Li and Lu, 1995).

6Under such policies, mineral rich regions such as Liaoning Province, Heilongjiang Province (both in Northeast China) and Shanxi Province (in North China) were the key areas in the spatial organi-zation of the national economic development. Hence billions of investments were poured into these regions rather than into the YRB, once the traditional agro-centre of the whole country (Yan and Wang, 1997). As a result, the YRB’s contribution to the national GDP declined from 35% in 1952 to 34% in 1980 (at 1952 price), although its industrial sector continued to perform well in the national economy (Sun, 1996) (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Change in the relative importance of the Yangtse River basin in the main sectors of activity in China

Figure 2: Change in the relative importance of the Yangtse River basin in the main sectors of activity in China

7Unfortunately, this situation has not changed at all since the Open Door Policy was announced in 1979, although raw materials manufacturing and petrochemical industries have expanded in the lower and middle sections of the YRB, including the development of the Baoshan Iron and Steel Complex in Shanghai, and the enlargement of The Nanjing Petrochemical Complex in Jiangsu in the 1980’s (Xu et al., 1999). The major reason for this could be that the contributions of Shanghai and its inland area to state revenues was of too great concern to the central government to risk economic experimentation in the early stages of the opening-up policy. In 1990, the share of the YRB in the country’s GDP, therefore, remained at 34%, showing no big change compared with the 1980s.

8Things have changed, however, since the early 1990s when Shanghai underwent a major series of reforms, and 14 inland cities along the YRB were designated as "open cities" in 1992. The State Council recognized the need for focusing reforms and economic development in the YRB in order to balance, in part, coastal and inland income differentials.

9Major infrastructure investments have been planned, ranging from power projects to shipping terminals, railways, highways, and energy infrastructures. The Three Gorges Dam, approved by the National People’s Congress in March of 1992, will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. Its construction will cost at least 57 billion RMB (at 1990 price) and is expected to begin once preparatory work and resettlement currently underway will be completed. Construction of this dam, 30 km upstream from the Gezhouba Dam near Yichang, will result in improvements to a 600 km stretch of the Yangtze River that will allow 10,000 ton ships to reach as far west as Chongqing, the economic centre of Southwest China (Wu and Zhang, 1999).

10Many provinces and cities in the basin have begun to institute far-reaching economic reforms in keeping with those along the East Coast, particularly in terms of business management and direct foreign investment, which is seen as essential for opening up these markets to the global economy. For example, Wuhan, one of the recently designated "open cities", counting almost 7,5 million people and situated midway along the Yangtse River Basin, is undergoing changes that could significantly strengthen its strategic role as a major distribution point for inland China. With considerable direct foreign investment, Wuhan is planning to create a large container port for transiting inland materials and products to Shanghai, and to Hong Kong by rail along lines that may soon be electrified. Wuhan officials see the city becoming the "Chicago" of the YRB (Zhang et al., 2003).

11The successful economic transformation of the Yangtze River Basin in recent years has shown this policy to work well until now. In 2000, nearly 41% of the country’s total GDP came from YRB, or about 7% more than that in 1980 (at 1952 price).

Structural economic and land use change

12Widespread adoption of industrial production has changed the traditional ways of China’s economic life, and particularly the use of natural resources. The exploitation of mineral resources has not only replaced plant and animal resources as the inputs to the nation’s economic growth, but has also triggered a transformation of land use from agricultural production to other productive purposes, especially industrial production. This structural transformation can be observed in connection with China’s industrialization process in general, but is particularly evident in the YRB.

13At the early stage of industrialization, agricultural activity was still the dominant factor in the YRB’s economic development. In 1952, the agricultural sector contributed more than 54% of the whole economy (GDP, fig. 3). Since the early of 1960s, the industrial sector has superseded agriculture as the regional economy’s most powerful driving force, and has contributed more and more to the regions economy during the last three decades due accelerated industrialization. By comparison, although the YRB was once the most advanced area in the country for tertiary services, this sector dropped off considerably during the long period with a closed domestic market under the so-called self-reliance policy applied at both the national and provincial levels. In 1952, the output of the tertiary sector registered nearly 26% of total regional GDP, but decreased to less than 18% in 1980. Only after 1985 did this situation change, and then only slightly. As the largest riverine transportation system, the transit of freight traffic of the Yangtse River in 1980, for example, was only one third of the country’s total water-born freight, or proportionally less a half what it represented in 1952.

Figure 3: Economic structural changes in Yangtse River basin between 1952 and 2000

Figure 3: Economic structural changes in Yangtse River basin between 1952 and 2000

Figure 4: A changed pattern of land use in the Yangtse River basin between 1952 and 2000

Figure 4: A changed pattern of land use in the Yangtse River basin between 1952 and 2000

14Figure 4 shows a general pattern of changes in land use base in the YRB during the past fifty years. The lessons that we can learn from this evolution can be described as follows.

15First of all, with rapid economic structural transformation, the conversion of land use in the YRB became increasingly intense. According to provincial government statistics, the total land-use for agricultural, urban and rural residential, industrial production and transportation purposes was about 35.4 million hectares in 1952. After a short period of stability during the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, total productive land use in the YRB shrank quickly, when a terrible series of catastrophes occurred in the early 1960s. After this, little changed during the following twenty years. The successful implementation of the "farmer household responsibility system" in rural areas and a nationwide introduction of economic reform in urban areas trigged a new phase of large-scale land reclamation. In 1990, total land use in YRB rose from 32.9 million hectares in 1975 to 36.7 million hectares in 2000, that is an increase of more than 17%.

16Secondly, it can be argued that economic structural change has greatly influenced not only YRB land use, but also changed its land use structure. With a cross-tabulated correlation approach, a close relationship between structural economic change and land use diversification can be observed in the evolution of YRB land use patterns. In Figure 5, the high coefficients of determination (R2>0.995) between structural changes of both economic development and land use demonstrate that economic structural diversification is the governing factor in long-term land use change.

Figure 5: Structural change of both economy and land use

Figure 5: Structural change of both economy and land use

17Thirdly, the only sector to have decreased with the evolution of land use in the YRB is the agricultural sector, whereas total productive land use has increased irregularly over the past fifty years. In the early 1950s, land use for agricultural production stood at more than 90% of the YRB’s total land use, but has decreased to 63% in 2000, mostly due to the growth of other sectors. Figure 6 shows that the development of non-agrarian productive businesses, such as industrial and tertiary activities, has dominated the changes of land use patterns in the YRB during the last 20 years. This is particularly true for the development of small businesses, mines and the construction of housing in rural areas. In fact, the development of the town-and-valley-owned non-agricultural industries and businesses, including manufac-turing, construction, transportation and other services, began in the late 1970s with the decentralization policy set on optimizing employment and production strategies on the local level. Since then, millions of peasants abandoned their farms and turned to look for jobs in the town-and-valley-owned non-agricultural activities. In 1985, the non-agrarian labour force in the rural areas of the YRB had risen to about 34 millions, and since then more than doubled by the year 2000. As a result, land use for non-agricultural purposes, such as housing, industry, mining activities and other businesses in the rural areas of the YRB increased by a factor of 1.4 (tabl. 1), while total land use only rose by a factor of 0.7 during the same period.

Figure 6: Relationship between the decrease in farm land use and the growth of industrial employment in rural area of Hubei province (1978-2000)

Figure 6: Relationship between the decrease in farm land use and the growth of industrial employment in rural area of Hubei province (1978-2000)

Table 1: Structural change of labour force in the rural area of YRB(1985-2000, million)

1985

1990

1995

2000

Total

Agricultural

Non-agricultural

160,69

126,89

33,80

180,44

134,91

45,53

189,53

132,20

57,33

191,66

121,33

70,33

Source: State Statistics Bureau, China’s Yearbook, varies years, China Statistics Press (in Chinese)

Urbanization and land use

18Although urban areas were considered to be the centre point of national and regional industrialization, urban development was not as rapid as industrialization was in the YRB. Generally speaking, urban development in the YRB was limited before 1990, because policy initially focused on tapping the resources of rural areas to accelerate industrialization in certain urban areas. During the 1950s, urban population increased at an annual rate of 1.3%. But national urban growth then stagnated or decreased with the three-year natural catastrophes in the early 1960s. The urban population of YRB dropped from 43 millions in 1962 to 41 millions in 1965. This situation became even more preoccupying during the Cultural Revolution in 1970s when ten million educated young people were moved from cities to rural areas in order to stimulate urban and industrial development in these areas. The urban population of YRB continued to decrease up until 1975, dropping to less than 41 millions, which corresponds to the lowest rate of regional urbanization in the modern history of the YRB (tabl. 2). In the late 1970s, urbanization growth renewed, and then accelerated during the next two decades. Urban population grew to nearly 100 millions in 1990 and then to more than 179 millions in 2000.

Table 2: Urbanization and gross product of YRB 1952-2000

Year

Total population

Millions inhabitants (1)

Urban population

Millions inhabitants (2)

Urbanization

(%),(2)/(1)

GDP

billion yuans at 1952 price

1952

235,79

27,41

11,62

2,35

1957

263,20

34,66

13,17

3,60

1962

267,85

43,31

16,17

5,23

1965

287,13

41,33

14,39

4,57

1970

330,16

40,57

12,29

6,15

1975

366,54

42,34

11,55

8,05

1980

388,59

57,74

14,86

12,49

1985

408,16

74,46

18,24

21,24

1990

441,28

99,71

22,59

29,88

1995

465,50

135,81

29,17

58,76

2000

478,02

172,38

36,06

97,83

Source: see Table 1.

19Ironically, urban development did not have as great an influence on land use change in the YRB as most experts expected. Even after 20 years of rapid urban expansion, land use for urban areas was still the smallest sector of productive land use in the YRB as a whole. Between 1980 and 2000, urban land use increased by a factor of 2.5, reaching 815 000 hectares. However this development only accounted for 3.2% of the YRB’s total land use, even though it was the fastest increasing land use type in the YRB. In other words, land use change has mainly resulted from structural economic changes in rural areas rather than in the YRB as a whole.

20A good example of this is the industrialization of the Hubei Province, a typical inland province in the mid YRB. During the past 20 years, farm land in the Hubei Province clearly declined while industrialization accelerated (tabl. 3). Truly, the industrialization in the rural areas of the Hubei Province was the dominant factor in the decrease of agricultural lands, rather than urbanization itself. Figure 6 shows that the coefficient of correlation between industrialization and agriculture in rural area is very high (R2=0.9678). In contrast, the coefficient of correlation between urbanization and agriculture in the Hubei Province is considerably weaker (R2=0.7459, fig. 7).

Table 3: Industrialization in rural area and urbanization in Hubei province 1978-2000. Comparaison de l’évolution de la superficie agricole, des emplois et de la population urbains sur la période 1978-2000

Year

Farm land use (1 000ha.)

Employees in the town-and-valley owned enterprises (1 000 persons)

Urban population (1 000 persons)

1978

3 768

736

45 750

1980

3 739

721

46 840

1985

3 585

2 019

49 310

1990

3 477

2 101

54 393

1995

3 358

3 334

57 721

2000

3 283

3 223

60 280

Source: Hubei Statistics Bureau, Hubei Statistics Yearbook, 2001, China Statistics Press , Beijing, 2001(in Chinese)

Figure 7: Relationship between the urbanisation growth and the decrease in farm land use in Hubei province (1978-2000)

Figure 7: Relationship between the urbanisation growth and the decrease in farm land use in Hubei province (1978-2000)

Conclusion

21For years, industrialization has been the most powerful force of change in the regional development of the main valley of the YRB, the largest inland artery of China. Virtually all the regions resources were put into this effort to modernize the industrial production and the urban centres of the YRB. It can be said that the industrialization and urbanization of the YRB is a great success, in spite of the extensive damage caused by disasters. This successful industrialization of the YRB has led the Yangtse Rive basin to become the most powerful engine of the nation’s industrial modernization.

22This evolution is characterised in particular by impressive structural changes of both social production and land use. These major structural transformations are evident not only in the modern urban areas, but even more so in traditionally rural areas.

23Undoubtedly, land, as a key resource input, makes a great contribution to regional development, mainly through the structural change of land use at a large scale. Contrary to the expectations of most experts[14]-[15], correlation analysis of the long-term trends of regional development show that the dominant factor of land use change in the YRB is wide spread industrialization in rural areas rather than concentrated urban development. In other words, urbanization had limited influence on land use change in the regions development, even though urban areas did expand considerably in the last two decades. Given current population growth, a major task for the future development of YRB is to relocate industrial activities from rural areas to urban areas as much as possible, so that land use change can be controlled and land use planning can be rationalised for a sustainable development of the whole YRB.

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Bibliographie

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: The sketch map of the Yangtse River Basin
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/486/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 15k
Titre Figure 2: Change in the relative importance of the Yangtse River basin in the main sectors of activity in China
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/486/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 2,4k
Titre Figure 3: Economic structural changes in Yangtse River basin between 1952 and 2000
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/486/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 4,6k
Titre Figure 4: A changed pattern of land use in the Yangtse River basin between 1952 and 2000
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/486/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 2,8k
Titre Figure 5: Structural change of both economy and land use
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/486/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 3,3k
Titre Figure 6: Relationship between the decrease in farm land use and the growth of industrial employment in rural area of Hubei province (1978-2000)
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/486/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 4,0k
Titre Figure 7: Relationship between the urbanisation growth and the decrease in farm land use in Hubei province (1978-2000)
URL http://geocarrefour.revues.org/docannexe/image/486/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 4,2k
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Référence papier

Lei Zhang, « Economic Development and Land-Use Conversion in the Main Course Area of the Yangtse River Basin », Géocarrefour, Vol. 79/1 | 2004, 13-18.

Référence électronique

Lei Zhang, « Economic Development and Land-Use Conversion in the Main Course Area of the Yangtse River Basin », Géocarrefour [En ligne], Vol. 79/1 | 2004, mis en ligne le 23 août 2007, consulté le 23 octobre 2017. URL : http://geocarrefour.revues.org/486 ; DOI : 10.4000/geocarrefour.486

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Auteur

Lei Zhang

Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Building 917. 3 Datun Road. Anwai Beijing
100101 China
Tel: (010) 6488-9779
E-mail: Zhangl(AT)igsnrr[point]ac[point]cn 

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