Foreign investment and urbanization: a case of the post-1978 Pearl River Delta, China

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


Conventional theories and empirical studies on urbanization in less developing countries (LDCs) have usually dealt with internal dynamics on local, regional or national perspective and paid little regard to the impacts of extemal forces. The 1980s have seen a major paradigmatic shift in urban studies to directly linking LDCs' developments with the globalization of econornic activities beyond national territories. The main objective of this research is to explore the spatial impacts of global forces via foreign direct investment (FDI) on the nature and pattern of urbanization in LDCs, taking the post-1978 Pearl River Delta (the Delta) of China as a case.

Urbanization in China during 1949-1978 was solely driven by the Central State investment under a self-reliant centrally-planned economic system. Since her Opening and Reform in I 978, foreign investment inflow has emerged as one of the most significant driving forces of urbanization in South China, particularly in the Delta. FDI into the Delta is mainly characterized by small and medium-scale, labour-intensive, trade-creative manufacturing activities with I-long Kong as the major fund source. With interaction of the internal dynamic reforms, foreign investment has not only promoted the Delta' s economic structural transformation, rural industrialization, export-oriented economy and integration with the world economy, but has also contributed to massive population in-migration both from inside and outside of the Delta and obvious rural urban landscape transformation. In contrast to a concentrated pattern in large metropolitan or economic core regions resulted from previous experience of FDI in LDCs and conventional FDI theories, foreign investment into the Delta has demonstrated a bias towards small cities and counties and of border orientation. Foreign investment-induced urbanization in the Delta is consequently characterized by rapid growth of small cities and towns, especially those along the border areas of Hong Kong and Macao. A border urbanization pattern with the emergence of a "transborder urban triangle" among the Delta, Hong Kong and Macao indicates the Delta's gradual integration with the world city hierarchy. The case of post-1978 Delta thus provides a new paradigm of urbanization in LDCs geared to the global economy through the influx of foreign investment.
Original languageEnglish
TypePHD thesis
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong
Number of pages382
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1996

Publication series

NameHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)


Dive into the research topics of 'Foreign investment and urbanization: a case of the post-1978 Pearl River Delta, China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this