The Spatial Dynamics of Infrastructure Development: Evidence from 70 years of Infrastructure Provision in China
39 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 3, 2021
Despite the crucial role that infrastructure plays in regional development and policy, there is a lack of theory explaining the influence of infrastructure in regional development. In this paper, we develop an analytical framework of infrastructure development in space and through time, after conducting an extensive literature review of 218 papers in multiple fields from around the world. We argue that infrastructure development is an interplay of exogenous and endogenous processes, which adapt relative to each other over time. We use 70 years of empirical evidence from China as a case study and demonstrate the temporal and spatial evolution of the drivers that have led to distinct outcomes. We find three distinct phases that China has undergone in its infrastructure development journey. Phase I is dominated by exogenous processes, with the state playing a leading role. In Phase II of its transition, endogenous processes become more prevalent as China adopts market reforms and integrates into the world economy. Tracking 25 years of China’s Five Year plans and related infrastructure policy targets, we discuss Phase III, which is marked by a profound transformation in terms of the nature and location of infrastructure built, driven by the transition towards sustainability. In the last section of the paper, we discuss extensively the spatial implications of China’s infrastructure transitions, the ways in which the endogenous and exogenous processes have resulted in the spatial unevenness, spatial clustering, and spatial shift of the country’s infrastructure assets and networks.
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