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New Article: The smart growth of Chinese cities: Opportunities offered by vacant land

Despite the publicly accepted concept of ‘smart growth’ of urban areas and its wide implications in developed countries, there is less concern about this in a newly emerging economy like China. Yet, due to the unprecedented urbanization rates in many developing countries, how to control unordered urban sprawl is becoming a severe challenge to multiple levels of governments.

This study is the first to comprehensively evaluate the spatial and temporal change of vacant land within the built‐up area of a large city in China. We used the core city of Shanghai as a case‐study to systematically investigate the spatial–temporal distribution of vacant land at the fine scale. The boundaries of vacant land patches and of other urban land use types were delineated using visual interpretation, based on 0.3‐m resolution aerial photos collected in 2000, 2005, and 2010. 

We find that (a) vacant land plays a very important role in the composition of the urban landscape of central Shanghai, accounting for 9.3%, 11.3%, and 10.4% of the core city area in 2000, 2005, and 2010, respectively; (b) there exists obvious spatial–temporal change of transformation between vacant land and other land use types during the 10 years studied; and (c) the considerable amounts of vacant land and its change dynamic have important policy implications for smart growth of cities in China. Making the best planning and management decisions about these vacant lands might be one promising smart growth principle for China's cities.

Open access article