Internal migration and urbanisation in China
Migration and Cities


China’s rapid urbanisation over the past four decades has been achieved predominantly by the massive inter-regional rural-to-urban migration.

This project aims to understand the dynamics of China’s internal migration and the “Chinese model” of urbanisation by developing a socio-spatial framework and applying it to multi-scalar empirical investigations. The research scope includes migration, its urbanisation effects, and application to policy making. Empirical studies are conducted on both regional and individual levels.


Case studies at the metropolitan level are conducted in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region (BTH) and the Pearl River Delta (PRD) with special focus on municipalities of Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. Five sets of data are collected to support our research, including aggregated census data, socioeconomic statistics, individual-level census and survey data, geographical information, and policy documents. Multiple types of statistical models, spatial visualization and analysis, and text analysis of policy documents will also be used in this project.

This project will contribute to the academic literature by (1) situating China’s massive internal migration into the process of national urbanisation and interpret the patterns and problems of urbanisation by emphasising the critical role played by migrants, (2) employing a cross-level empirical approach that emphasises the interactive effects of individual and city-level factors, and (3) assessing the role of central and local policies in making migration decisions and shaping the urbanising landscape.