Land-use planning in 'one country, two systems': Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen

Mee Kam Ng*, Wing Shing Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


This paper studies the political economy of urban governance and land-use planning mechanisms in the 'one country, two systems' of mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). It is argued that the market economy of Hong Kong had, over the years as a British colony, established an efficiently-run regulatory system of land-use planning. The current land-use planning mechanisms are biased toward economic growth as a result of its executive-government-led and business-interests-dominated political structure. The challenge for Hong Kong as a relatively autonomous SAR, therefore, is to incorporate the social and environmental dimensions in planning for territorial development within a wider regional context as a result of economic and political integration with China. In mainland China, the reforming socialist planned economy has now embraced privately and foreign-owned enterprises though the Communist Party and the government have retained strong political control. A 'dual' land-use development system operates under an economic-growth-oriented development strategy. On one hand, government authorities who are land owners, land managers, and the largest land users as they own most of the economic enterprises, may not, for various reasons, follow the planning intentions when formally allocating land for development projects. On the other hand, illegal construction and land uses are widespread, suggesting that the formal land-use planning system is ineffective, if not irrelevant, in controlling development. Part of the explanation lies in the absence of a genuine land market where legitimate persons with land-use rights can buy and sell land within a planning framework generally agreed by the community. Unless Chinese cities strive to establish formal land-use planning processes to prepare plans with the participation of various actors to reflect their needs, and establish urban planning mechanisms that have teeth in controlling development, urban planning will continue to be marginal in local governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-27
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Planning Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1999

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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