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From “Differentiation and Reflections on Chinese and Western Urban Network Research” (Li, 2018), published in the International Urban Planning Magazine. The article analyses the differences in research on urban networks between China and the West in terms of research scales, research methods, and research content in urban networks. Based on this, it will make initial thoughts on future urban network research.

The following is based on the second part – “Choices of city contact types”:

In summary, regardless of the scale of the urban network, its research methods mainly include two aspects: the choice of urban contact types, and the construction and analysis of the network. The selection of the types of city connections can be thought from the following six aspects:

1. The path of company organisation

The path of company organisation is most common in the current research on urban networks in China and the West. Among them, Taylor et al. in the advanced producer services industry proposed in the study of the world network of cities have a wide range of connections and applications, and have also Played an important reference in studied urban networks at the national and regional scales.

2. The path of infrastructure

Prior to the emergence of company organisational paths, infrastructure paths were the main route for foreign scholars to study the world’s urban networks. Smith used air passenger flow data earlier to study the relationships and connections between cities in the world.

In recent years, infrastructure networks such as aviation networks and the Internet have been widely used in the research of the world’s urban networks, and both involved at national and regional scales.

3. The path of human activity

Due to the influence of spatial scope, the crowd activity path is mainly focused on the research of multi-centre urban areas. Commuting is the most commonly used type of crowd activity. In addition to this, shopping, leisure and business trips are commonly used.

Representative studies include Hall’s research on European multi-central urban areas based on business travel, Berger and Meierch’s research on multi-central urban areas in Holland based on commuting flow and shopping flow, and Berger et al. research on the Randstad area in the Netherlands.

The method of using big data to reflect inter-city flows among people is widely used in urban network research.

4. The path of social culture

The social and cultural path focuses on the urban networks that are shaped by social, cultural, and political factors. Taylor studied the world’s urban (social) networks based on office networks formed by 74 non-governmental organisations in 178 cities around the world.

With the rise of online new media and changes in the concept of residents’ consumption, researchers began to pay attention to the research of urban networks based on cyberspace and cultural consumption space.

5. The path of innovation links

The application of innovative contact paths in domestic and foreign urban network research has only begun to appear in recent years. The research of foreign planner mainly focuses on the world’s urban networks. For example, Mathieson et al. studied the structural characteristics and evolution trends of urban knowledge networks formed by the cooperation of the papers in major cities in the world.

6. The path of gravity model

The gravitational model was originally used to calculate the economic and social connections of cities. After the emergence of the concept of urban networks, some scholars were introduced into the study of urban networks.

In foreign studies, Van Otto used the gravitational model to analyse the extent of functional multi-centres and spatial integration in the Randstad region of the Netherlands. Chinese planners have more applications of gravitational models. For example, Gu and Pang used the gravitational model to calculate the spatial connection strength of Chinese cities, and based on this, analysed the spatial connection status and nodule structure of Chinese urban systems.

At the same time, some studies based on the innovation link have also applied gravitational models to calculate the city’s innovative links.


Li, Y. (2018) ’Differences and Reflections on the Urban Network between China and Western Countries’, Urban Planning International, 2, Available at:

Urban Research & Practice[Online], Available at:


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