Town-country relations in China: back to basics

Wing Shing TANG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper develops a nuanced understanding of town-country relations in China. Inherent in the current literature is the serious problem of randomly indigenizing experiences and concepts from the West. To restore this imbalance, this paper provides a preliminary attempt to develop a better understanding methodologically, epistemologically and theoretically. It argues first for the implementation of a spatial story methodology that takes spatio-temporal relations seriously; second, a nuanced concept of the state as dynastic empire-building which functions through a two-tier governing relationship in focus-field relationships; third, a rejection of dualism, advocating instead the idea of mutual embeddedness in order to decipher the subtle relationships between parts and whole; fourth, an interrogation of the appropriateness of spatial concepts like spatial reach, scale, level and territory; and, finally, a proposed concept of cheng-cum-xiang to eschew a dualistic approach to town-country relations. In conclusion, the paper suggests implications for debates within urban studies more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-485
Number of pages31
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics

User-Defined Keywords

  • cheng-cum-xiang relation
  • focus-and-field relationship
  • mutual embeddedness
  • spatial story
  • tongbian philosophy
  • Town-country relations in China


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