AbstractIn the era of globalization and informatization, urban development patterns need to be generated with the network structure between cities taken into account. The urban network constructed based on enterprise connections has recently garnered substantial research interest. However, most of the research efforts have been channeled toward constructing urban networks via the relationship between headquarters and branches within enterprises, with little attention paid to urban networks through the lens of financial connections between enterprises. In this study, the cross-regional investment data of enterprises are used to establish an urban network, revealing its spatial distribution and evolutionary dynamics. The main conclusions are as follows. First, corporate investment behavior somewhat fuels the structure and direction of the urban network. The correlation degree of the network is significantly enhanced, and the network relationship has an apparent economic focus, resource focus, and path dependence characteristics. Spatial connections show the dual characteristics of large-scale preferential connections (outside the region) and small- and medium-scale adjacent connections (inside the region). Second, from 2006 to 2016, cross-regional investment was further concentrated in core cities and hotspot cities, and the flow of funds between regions also changed from being within-region to primarily being inter-regional. However, the dominant role of traditional core cities or hotspot cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Ningbo are apparent, resulting in a network structure in line with a core–periphery model. Finally, compared with other dimensions of urban networks, in addition to the effective play of the investment function of the core cities or the hotspot cities, some small- and medium-sized cities with rich resources also play an important connecting role in the network. These research results provide a decision-making basis for urban spatial structure, functional integration, and collaborative planning; furthermore, they promote the research on urban networks based on actual economic activities among enterprises.

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