Repository logo

Urban development and retail structure in Beijing



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



The purpose of this study was to examine the evolutionary processes of the urban structure and retail pattern in Beijing as the city was transformed from a traditional national capital, through a socialist political centre, to a modern metropolis. The understanding of the processes will allow us to comment on the existing models of Third World urban development. While a theoretical framework was put forward to establish the relationships among the political-economic-social fabrics, urban development and retail structure, analyses were made involving factors at three levels to interpret the spatial processes of urban functions and retail structure reorganization. The study revealed that urban development in Beijing has shown three distinctive stages. Each stage had its prevailing factors, resulting in different forms of urban development. Beijing was originally built according to the concept of traditional Chinese capital city design. During the socialist period, the city was transformed toward egalitarianism in the practices of socialist ideology, planned industrialization, and social controls. Since the late 1970s, the reform and open-door policies have been generating new economic and social forces that have reshaped Beijing's urban development. As a result, competitions and transformations among urban functions caused by the new forces have led to a series of spatial processes in the city. Along with urban expansion, population increased rapidly in the outer zone of the city, with concomitant depopulation in the inner city. As in other Third World cities, temporary residents/immigrants increased significantly in Beijing, forming peasant enclaves in the urban fringe areas. Industrial plants were also relocated from the inner urban districts to the industry tracts in the outer regions. The establishment of development zones and industrial parks in the suburbs also changed the industrial landscape in the city. Meanwhile, several major business centres have been developed, among which the most spectacular are the emerging CBD in the city's east and the Financial Street in the city's west. Based on these processes, a dynamic urban structure model for the Chinese city was derived. The spatial retail pattern in Beijing over the dynasties was basically dictated by the city layout and its social structure. It evolved from a mono-centre to a bipolar structure and was explicable with the central place theory. The existence of the socialist retailing in the city was a result of its centrally-planned system. Since the reforms urban development has resulted in significant changes in the transportation network and the distribution of market factors, which eventually led to the emergence of a multi-centre retail pattern. While the relics of the former administrative structure attempted to form 'urban realms' of retail activities in the city, major new retail establishments tend to comfort to the 'interceptor ring model'. In essence, Beijing's contemporary retail structure represents a mixture of models based on both the planned system of the past and the prevailing market forces, even though the influence by the latter is growing.





Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)








Part Of