MPA Major Research Papers

Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration


Political Science


Sancton, Andrew

Geographical Areas

China, Canada


Over the past several decades, dramatic growth and institutional reforms have taken place in the Chinese economy and society, which has been accompanied by accelerated urbanization. This paper examines the rationale behind the local government’s pursuit of urbanization and its deep relationship with fiscal reform, local land management, and the political performance evaluation system of local cadres by central officials. The findings reveal that, rather than being a natural consequence of economic development and a complex outcome of population urbanization and land urbanization, China’s urbanization in recent decades can be identified as a local government-led development deriving from the municipalities’ fiscal incentives, land monopoly authority incentives, and political incentives. While urbanization seems to be an inevitable trend of economic development, it is actually driven by an unsustainable accumulation regime that prioritizes the needs of local land fiscal income, real estate development, and GDP growth.