Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Planning, Design, and the Built Environment

Committee Member

Mickey Lauria

Committee Member

Mary Padua

Committee Member

Luis Enrique Ramos-Santiago

Committee Member

Elizabeth Baldwin


The fundamental promise of socialism in China is to provide common prosperity for all. However, after 40 years of economic reform since the 1980s, China has become one of the most unequal societies in the world. Five-Year Plan has been one of the most important public policy tools of the Chinese government since 1953 to guide the nation’s social and economic development. Considering China’s socialism promise, the existing social and spatial inequality, and the central importance of the Five-Year Plan, it demands academic attention to examine how the issue of inequality between different social groups and regions are addressed in the Thirteenth Five-Year Plans (2016-2020). This study fills the gap by critically and systematically analyzing the goals and strategies of the national, provincial, and city Thirteenth Five-Year Plans in China. My research reveals that China’s Thirteenth Five-Year Plans do intend to address the issue of imbalanced development. The five-year plans’ social implication is that there are slightly more goals and strategies benefiting the capitalist class than the working class. However, neither the capitalist nor working class interests dominate the plans and the biggest policy target group of the plans is the general public. The five-year plans’ spatial implication is that though spatial issues are not of central importance, there are much more goals and strategies benefitting the rural areas than the urban areas, and more goals and strategies benefitting the Western and Central regions than the Eastern regions. This finding suggests that spatial planning in China prioritizes reducing spatial inequality. Overall, in the Thirteenth Five-Year Plans, Chinese governments actively sought to deal with the issue of imbalanced development. Theoretically, my research findings strengthen the validity of the claim that Chinese capitalist class enjoys political privilege to influence policymaking for their own interests. They also support the Marxist claim that class struggle plays a vital role in public policymaking in China. However, my research findings do not support the claim that the political power of Chinese capitalist class has been growing since 2010 in China, and do not support the claim that Chinese capitalists are more active at the local level.



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