People-oriented new type of urbanization is the only way towards modernization, and also the greatest driving force to boost China’s domestic demand and development. Promoting urbanization is an important way to solve the problems of agriculture, rural areas and farmers, a strong support for the promotion of regional coordinated development and an important starting point to expand domestic demand and promote industrial upgrading. Therefore, it is of great significance to the building of a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and to the accelerating of the socialist modernization.
Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area is established by the Fourth Army of the Red Army under the leadership of the Communist Party of China in the border region between Sichuan and Shaanxi. It is also the second largest Soviet Area during the Agrarian Revolutionary War, which makes important contributions and sacrifices for the victory of the Chinese revolution. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area has taken on a new look, but its economic and social development still faces many prominent difficulties and bottlenecks due to historical, natural and geographical influences. It has become a key and difficult area for China to establish a moderately prosperous society in all aspects. Therefore, the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China formally issued the “Development Plan for Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area” in July, 2016 (Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China, 2016) . To speed up the economic and social development of Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area, we must accelerate new type of urbanizationin the region. However, there is little research on the urbanization of Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area in the academic field, so it is of great significance to do the current research.
2. Status Quo and Problems of New Type of Urbanization in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area
2.1. Status Quo of New Type of Urbanization in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area
Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area includes 68 counties (cities, districts) such as Bazhou District in Bazhong City, with a total area of 157,000 square kilometers. These regions, similar in geography, environment and culture, are generally economically underdeveloped areas. Since reform and opening up, the urban infrastructure in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area has been continuously improved and the functions of towns have been significantly enhanced. System reform has achieved remarkable results, and the urbanization rate has gradually increased. In 2016, the total permanent population of the Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area was 31.53 million and the permanent urban population was 12.66 million with the urbanization rate up to 44.1%.
2.2. Problems Existing in the New Type of Urbanization in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area
2.2.1. The Low Level of Urbanization
In general, the urbanization rate of the permanent population of Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area in 2016 was 44.1%, which was lower than the national average of 13.3 percentage points. Judging from the level of urbanization in the 68 districts and counties in the region, only 7 districts and counties have higher level of urbanization than the national average, including Bazhou District, Lizhou District, Tongchuan District, Shunqing District, Fucheng District, Hantai District and Feng County. Therefore, this area is confronted with low level of urbanization, and thus rapid and high-quality new type of urbanization is greatly needed (Yi, 2017) (See Table 1).
2.2.2. The Low-Quality of Urbanization
People-oriented urbanization is mainly reflected in the promotion of equalization of public services. In 2015, the per capita spending on education, health care, culture, employment and social security in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area was only 60% of the national total, and there was a large gap between the urban and rural areas on basic public services. The construction of educational facilities lags behind, and the teacher resource is insufficient. The literate and semi-literate rate of rural laborers is relatively high. Medical and health-care service systems in villages, towns and counties are not perfect, and there is a shortage of basic health and family-planning talents. The number of hospitals per 10,000 people is only two-thirds of the national average.
2.2.3. Unreasonable Structure of Urban System
First, the comprehensive strength of the central city is not so great and the ability to promote development is insufficient. According to the rankings of 338 prefecture-level cities and above by the Urban Research Institute of China in 2018, only Mianyang and Nanchong rank among the third-tier cities in the regional center cities of Old Revolutionary Base Area, and all rest cities are five-tier cities such as Bazhong, Guangyuan, Dazhou, Nanchong, Mianyang, Hanzhong, Ankang and Shangluo, etc. Second, the development of small towns is slow and unevenly distributed. Third, there is a lack of clear positioning for urban development (Wang et al., 2005) .
2.2.4. Serious Homogeneity of the Industrial Structure
Due to independent urban development and rare cooperation, there is a high degree of similarity in the industrial structure and strong internal competition during the economic development of all counties and cities. Especially in the booming leisure agriculture industry in recent years, the landscape architecture and tourism projects designed in many places are blindly following the trend, lacking “human touch”, and the phenomenon of homogenization is serious (Jiang et al., 2017) .
2.2.5. Low Level of Inclusive Development
Due to the lagging infrastructure, there are strong closures and poor economic and social connections between towns and between towns and surrounding countryside. The development of cities and towns cannot promote regional economic development. Many issues coexist, such as urban traffic jams, deterioration of the living environment and backwardness in mountain areas.
Table 1. Urbanization level in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area and China.
(Source: Statistical Communique on the National Economic and Social Development of Cities, Counties, and Counties in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area in 2016 and Statistical Yearbook 2017).
2.2.6. Severe Environmental Damage
Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area is located in the Longmenshan seismic zone, an area prone to geological disasters and ecologically fragile. In addition, the natural “cavernous body” is destroyed in the process of urbanization due to people’s weak awareness of environmental protection, which further weakens the already fragile ecological environment. This has triggered a series of problems such as water pollution, shortage of water resources, lack of guarantee of water security, and disappearance of water culture and so on. There are also flood when raining and drought after that (Li & Sheng, 2014) .
2.2.7. Insufficient Driving Forces for Further Development
Economic development is the main driving force for urbanization. However, constrained by many factors such as geographical environment, resources, funds, technology and talents, the economic development level is low and the ability to support urbanization is weak in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area. Judging from the total GDP, only 38 counties in the 68 districts and counties have entered the “ten billion-dollar club” of GDP, and none has entered the top 100 list of China’s county-level economy (China Business Intelligence Network, 2016) . In terms of per-capita GDP, it is only 53.2% of the national average (see Table 2).
3. Analysis of Conditions for New Type of Urbanization in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area
3.1. Analysis of External Conditions for New Type of Urbanization in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area
Intensified implementation of the new round of western development, the rapid development of Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Zone (agglomerations) and Guanzhong-Tianshui Economic Zone, the rapid rise of national-level new districts such as Tianfu New District, Xixian New District, and Liangjiang New District, and the promulgation and implementation of Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area revitalization plan. All these have created favorable environmental conditions for accelerating new type of urbanization in the old district. The implementation of national strategies such as the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the Yangtze River Economic Belt Development has given strong impetus to the development of the regions by taking advantage of their unique location and actively integrating international and domestic industrial divisions, creating industrial conditions for new type of urbanization of the Old Revolutionary Base. The basic strategy of a targeted approach to alleviating poverty has effectively solved the problem of regional poverty in the Old Revolutionary Base Area, injected a strong momentum for the people of the old district to get rid of poverty as soon as possible, and provided a driving force for accelerating the new type of urbanization of the region. The promotion of ecological development has provided strong support for new type of urbanization of the region by
Table 2. GDP in China and Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area in 2016.
(Source: Statistical Communique on the National Economic and Social Development of Cities, Counties, and Counties in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area in 2016 and Statistical Yearbook 2017).
making full use of its ecological advantages, setting up the concept of “respecting nature, conforming to nature and integrating nature and humanity” and relying on the unique scenery of existing landscape and veins, so that the city can integrate into nature and residents will be able to clearly see mountains and water, and remember homesickness. The accelerating reforms in various fields, the implementation of innovation-driven development strategy and the booming mass innovation and entrepreneurship have provided institutional guarantees for the reform of the new type of urbanization system in this Old Revolutionary Base Area.
3.2. Analysis of the Internal Conditions for the New Type of Urbanization in the Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area
3.2.1. Unique and Important Location
The Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area, located at the junction of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Hebei, are not only important bridges connecting the southwest and the northwest, the western region and the middle region of China, but also important routes linking the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the Silk Road Economic Belt. There are railway lines such as Bao-Cheng, Xiang-Yu, Xi-Kang, Yang-An, Ning-Xi, Da-Cheng and Guang-Ba in the area, and also Expressways such as Jing-Kun, Bao-Mao, Lan-Hai, Hu-Rong, Shi-Tian and Hu-Shan.
3.2.2. Abundant Resources
The Old Revolutionary Base Area is located in the north-south climate transition zone with a clear integrated climate and abundant rainfall. With high soil organic matter, it is the largest natural selenium resource area in the country. Rich in biological resources, it is called “natural gene pool” and “natural drug store”. The mineral resources are abundant, with 1.9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, metal ores such as iron, aluminum, lead, zinc, manganese and antimony, as well as non-metallic minerals including graphite, dolomite, quartzite and so on. It has special industries. As an important base for agricultural specialty production and processing, its authentic Chinese herbal medicines and agricultural specialty such as tea, sericulture and dried fruit occupy an important position in the country. It is also base for clean energy, electronic information, aerospace, equipment manufacturing, oil and gas chemical industry. With Mianyang Science and Technology City and 6 national development zones, its tourism, logistics and other service industries have developed rapidly.
3.2.3. Important Ecological Status
The Old Revolutionary Base Areais an important component of the important water conservation area in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the Qinba Biodiversity Ecological Function Area. It has well-developed water systems including Hanjiang River, Jialingjiang River, Fujiang River and Qujiang River, and widely-distributed natural forests and wetland resources with the forest coverage rate of 57.2%. With 23 national nature reserves and 27 national forest parks, it is an important ecological protection barrier in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, bearing important ecological functions such as biodiversity conservation in the Qinba Mountains and protection of water sources in the middle line of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project.
3.2.4. Profound Cultural Heritage
The red culture has far-reaching influence and the spirit of the Soviet Area is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people. Therefore, it serves as an important revolutionary tradition education base and a patriotic education base. As the birthplace of the ancient Ba State, it also boasts brilliant historical and cultural relics such as the ancient battlefields of three Kingdoms and the ancient Shu Road.
4.1. Establish a Unified Coordination and Cooperation Platform to Accelerate the Process of Regional Integration
The counties and cities in Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area share similarities in terms of natural conditions and cultural heritage such as similar climatic conditions, tourism resources, mineral resources and red culture, and thus it is easy for them to find common goals and form synergy in regional cooperation. The Old Revolutionary Base has made breakthroughs in the development of tourism resources. In July 2015, the Sichuan-Shaanxi-Gansu Regional Tourism Cooperation Innovation and Development Experimental Zone was established to jointly develop tourism products and design tourist routes. In December 2016, “The Framework Agreement on Strategic Cooperation for the Revitalization and Development of the Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area” was signed in Guanyuan, Sichuan Province, and “The Guangyuan Declaration on the Revitalization and Development Forum for the Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area” was published, laying foundations for further cooperation among the participated cities and counties. Altogether, 10 cities and counties participated in it, including Mianyang City, Guangyuan City, Nanchong City, Dazhou City and Bazhong City in Sichuan Province, Baoji City, Hanzhong City, Ankang City and Shangluo City in Shaanxi Province, as well as Chengkou County in Chongqing. The Old Revolutionary Base Area should break the boundaries of administrative divisions, and establish a unified big market by planning and laying out in a unified manner in accordance with regional economic principles, and organizing specialized production and division of labor. With complementary advantages and joint cooperation, they can form a community of shared interests, mainly including unified commodity and factor markets, complementary and rationally-arranged industrial systems, unimpeded transportation facilities, interconnected, shared and highly-efficient information networks, as well as unified institutional framework of equal treatment of regional economic entities, and ecological environment of harmonious symbiosis.
4.2. Improve Planning to Establish a Rational Urbanization System
In promoting the new type of urbanization of Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area, local governments of Sichuan Province, Shaanxi Province and Chongqing Municipalitymust do a good job of overall planning. Only when general principles and overall plans for the urbanization are clearly defined will it be possible to promote new-type urbanization at a certain height. The overall policy must conform to the actual conditions of cities and towns and comply with their future development patterns. The overall planning, as the leading factor in urban development, must be guided by the development concept of new type of urbanization, namely, “intensive, smart, green, and low-carbon development”. Specifically, attention should be paid to the following aspects. Firstly, in terms of transportation, advanced transport facilities are the basis for regional economic and social development. To form an efficient, orderly, multiple-integrated urban system, it is necessary to promote the inter-city transportation network, to improve urban roads and supporting facilities, to upgrade management facilities. For those cities with favorable conditions, rail networks should be built to accelerate the interconnectivity of inter-city infrastructure. Secondly, in terms of industry, in the new situation, the regional center cities should be cautiously positioned and comparative advantages of cities and counties should be figured out. Based on biotechnology and information technology, a group of emerging industries with local characteristics should be developed to promote the optimization and upgrading of industrial structures. The long-term prosperity of the cities and towns should be supported by industries with vitality and long-term development capabilities. Thirdly, in terms of culture, Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area is the gathering area of China’s ethnic minorities, a red cultural heritage area, and a historical and cultural protected area. Since it’s rich in culture, ancient town conservation and cultural tourism development need to be integrated in the process of urbanization. The rational division of industries is vital for regional towns and cities so as to realize development at various levels and with their own unique features. Fourthly, in terms of ecology, the geological environment in this area is fragile. Therefore, we should promote the development of sponge cities. We should set foot on regional differences and industrial bases to boost the development of specialized industries such as forests, fruits, vegetables and livestock, to vigorously develop efficient green agriculture and to build beautiful and livable towns.
4.3. Deepen Reform Orderly and Promote System Innovation
To promote the development of new-type urbanization, it is very important to carry out economic restructuring in an orderly manner in accordance with the arrangements of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, and in particular to deepen reforms in the fields of public services and social security. Firstly, we must reform the urban household registration and social security systems. In order to promote the reform of the household registration system, it is a top priority to gradually establish a unified urban and rural population registration system. Then, we will actively and steadily establish a household registration system featuring an urban-rural integration and registration system based on the residence. Thus, we can gradually eliminate the dual household registration system for agricultural and non-agricultural households, achieve equality of citizenship, and eliminate institutional barriers between urban and rural areas. Secondly, we must combine the reform of the household registration system with various social welfare systems such as employment, education, medical care, pensions and housing. We should steadily promote reforms in the systems of employment, wages, education, medical care, pensions and housing that are linked to household registration, and achieve breakthroughs in eliminating institutional obstacles in the dual structure of urban and rural areas. We should thoroughly clear the current laws, regulations and policies related to household registration reform, and make corresponding amendments and transitional measures concerning family planning, minimum living guarantees, social insurance and compulsory education, especially rural land contracting and collective economic revenue distribution. We should provide conditions to gradually resolve household registration issues of migrant workers who have long-term employment and residence in cities. For urban migrant workers who have legal fixed residences, stable occupations or sources of living in the city, we must create conditions to gradually transform them into urban residents, enjoying the rights that local residents should have in accordance with the law and assuming their due obligations as well. Thirdly, we must establish and improve the rural land circulation system and promote the capitalization of rural surplus resources. A new system of land property rights has been introduced to allow the land to flow, to moderately consolidate the land, to follow the path of large-scale management of the agricultural industry, to increase the income of farmers, and to fundamentally consolidate the results of urbanization. Finally, we must deepen the reform of the property rights system, further optimize the capital structure, value the assets of land and township enterprises, fundamentally solve the conflict of unclear property rights, promote the capitalization of rural surplus resources, and promote the morphological transformation of rural productivity factors from the physical form to concrete values. We should resolve the contradiction between the requirements of population aggregation and too high “threshold” for rural people entering cities in the process of industrialization and urbanization, so that the interests of farmers are protected and the allocation of resources is optimized (Yu, 2011) .
4.4. Adopt Various Measures to Solve Fund Shortage
Funding is a key issue in urbanization, for the amount of funds directly affects the speed and quality of urbanization. We should continue to establish a multi-investment system in which the state, local governments, collectives, individuals and companies jointly invest. Firstly, Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Areaisa poverty-stricken area in the western region. Therefore, in its urbanization, we should make full advantage of relevant national policies and funds concerning western development, the revitalization of Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area and poverty alleviation to build important traffic trunks, water conservancy hubs, and communication facilities, to solve the “bottleneck” constraints of funds in infrastructure construction in the area, thus creating the necessary conditions for accelerating the pace of urbanization. Secondly, we should establish a multi-element sustainable fund guarantee mechanism, promote the reform of policy-oriented financial institutions, and give full play to the important role of existing policy-oriented financial institutions in urbanization. At the same time, we should study measures on the establishment of urban infrastructure and residential policy-oriented financial institutions, etc. Finally, in order to accelerate the new type of urbanization, the government agencies should expedite the administration and decentralization, effectively open the channels for private capital to invest in the urban public utilities, provide support and preferential treatment in terms of industrial policies and financial funds, and allow private capital to invest in more areas at a larger scale and at a faster speed such as the highway construction, urban sewage treatment, urban water supply and urban gas supply. Finally, the “people crowd funding” model should be promoted to allow villagers to actively participate in new type of urbanization.
In Sichuan-Shaanxi Old Revolutionary Base Area, there are still problems such as low-level and low-quality urbanization, unreasonable structure of urban system, serious homogenization of industrial structure, low-level inclusive development, severe environmental damage and lack of driving forces for further development. Therefore, its urbanization requires an environment of extensive cooperation, reasonable overall planning, institutional innovation and adequate funding.