How does rapid urban growth affect the environment and people's quality of life?



Urban Growth and the Environment

Rapid urbanization comes at the cost of significant local environmental degradation. 
This research theme aims to understand the interaction mechanisms between rapid urbanization and environmental sustainability, and empirically quantify such relationships.

How does urban growth (population/production growth, income growth, spatial growth) impact the environment?

How do the changes in environmental quality impact people’s choices and their human capital, and thus influence a city’s growth potential and quality?

Our research will focus mainly on fast-growing cities in developing countries and will also draw lessons from the urbanization-environment interaction trajectory of developed countries.




Rapid urbanization with increasing investment in transportation infrastructure, both between and within cities, has made urban space more closely linked.

In addition to physical connections, the fast development of mobile communication technology has brought people closer via social network connections, and created stronger connections between cities in the virtual space. Meanwhile, communication technology has facilitated the emergence of urban big data, such as mobile phone data, social media, and remote sensing. This provides us with greater opportunities to study urban dynamics in finer spatial-temporal resolution.

The role of urban space in the network setting is understudied, and there are some critical issues that need to be explored:

How do multiple urban network layers connect markets, people and ideas?

How do such connections re-shape the system of open cities and urban spatial structure?

How does an urban network contribute to urban vibrancy and a city’s innovation capacity?




Mechanisms, Efficiency, Sustainability


What are the underlying mechanisms, efficiency and sustainability features?

New city development is an important way for all countries in the world, especially developing countries, to promote urbanization.

It is one of the most wide-spread urban development approaches to spur local, regional, and national economic development today. In the past 20 years, China has accumulated rich practical experience in new city development and has also formed numerous localized development models. Some ghost towns have remained under-occupied for years, but we also observe a few thriving ghost towns after some years of development.

Research Goals:

  1. Global observatory and international comparative studies of new city developments.

  2. Multi-player coordination mechanisms and resource investment decisions shaping new city developments.

  3. Location decision, efficiency and sustainability evaluation for new city development.



The findings will advance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of new city development in China, and their efficiency and sustainability features. Our research can provide policy implications for future new city development.




The CFC Lab is working to combine novel research methods, such as machine learning, with China’s extensive big data resources to build a comprehensive database for measuring urban development.

The database is divided into four dimensions, each with a range of variables to further develop indicators.


The aim is to build a new city development database consisting of new city case studies in different socio-economic and urbanization stages. It will allow analysis of the development landscape and key mechanisms of major new 

cities around the world in the past two decades. Based on solid academic research, we will better transfer the "Chinese experience" of China's new city development to international academia, industry and policy makers.

Data Partners