Project
Shrinking cities in the U.S and China: a transnational comparison

Since the 1970s, once-prosperous American heavy industrial areas have been mired in economic recession and deindustrialization, triggering large-scale depopulation in what is colloquially called the Rust Belt. Many scholars have examined planning, policy and design responses to this depopulation for Rust Belt cities. Beginning in the early 2000s, German scholars coined the term “shrinking cities” to draw attention to the mismatch between these cities’ shrinking populations and their remaining, often half abandoned built environment. Such urban shrinkage was once deemed as a special phenomenon that only occurred in the developed world, and few would ever expect such a phenomenon to be occurring in China, a fast growing nation. However, due to China’s family planning policies and changing fertility rates, as well as economic transitions, many shrinking cities are emerging in Northeast China, once the most industrialized region in China. This research will support an exchange between MIT and Tsinghua University to conduct a transnational comparison study of shrinking cities in Northeast China and their counterparts in the US Rust Belt.

This collaboration with Tsinghua University is supported by the MISTI Greater China Fund for Innovation.

Spring 2017