2018 Volume 6 Issue 3 Pages 168-184
A multiplicity of spatial plans in a planning system can have different ways of co-existing under different institutional organizations. Having a highly centralized government like China, the phenomenon of a multitude of national-level plans dominating at the same time has its own unique characteristics. Much literature emphasizes only the lacking of coordination between governmental institutes. However, this research finds that the current constitution of the Chinese planning system profoundly reflects the relations between central and local governments. This paper first examines the characteristics of the Chinese political system, briefly reviewing the iterative process of “centralization-decentralization-selective centralization”, showing the rise and fall of spatial planning as an administrative tool of local governments. Especially since the 1990s, the central government has raised revenue from the local level, which leads to local governments depending more on selling land for quick money. But as the urban expansion accelerates, the state asserts its control on local development by the National Main function Plan and National Land-use Plan, which seriously impedes the coordination of spatial plans at different levels. Therefore, this study argues that spatial planning reform in China requires not only generating integrated information platforms and technical standards, but more importantly, establishing new relations between central and local government. In the end, some suggestions are made on central authorities reducing the constraints of a planning censorship system and rebalancing the responsibility and the public finance of local government on planning matters.