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Patterns of spatial interaction and hierarchical structure of Chinese cities based on intercity air passenger flows

SONG Wei1,LI Xiu-wei2,XIU Chun-liang3(1.Department of Geography and Geosciences,University of Louisville,Louisville,KY40292,USA2.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research,CAS,Beijing 100101,China;3.School of Urban and Environmental Sciences,Northeast Normal University,Changchun 130024,China)  
The patterns of spatial interaction and hierarchical structure of Chinese cities have been both shaped by and reflected in the air traffic pattern as air transport industry developed rapidly since the 1990s.Air passenger linkages or traffic flows among cities are used as the basis for identifying hierarchical status of cities-a theme of long-standing concern for analysis in spatial organization.Three specific research areas are addressed in this paper:(1) the spatial structure of intercity air passenger flows;(2) the pattern and hierarchical standing of major Chinese cities in domestic passenger air transport-based spatial interaction;and(3) air passenger dominance and changing urban system structure.Fifty-seven major Chinese cities with scheduled passenger flights and substantial passenger turnovers are included in the study.Principle of dominant flow,or Nystuen-Dacey method,along with Hierarchical Cluster Analysis by squared Euclidean distance,is applied to intercity air passenger data of 1995,2000,and 2003.This study reveals,first,that directional intercity air routes and interactions are strongly dominated by cities in the East,where the trio of Beijing,Shanghai and Guangzhou-Shenzhen constitutes the backbone of the national air transport network.Cities in the Middle Region lag behind their counterparts in the other two regions in terms of air network importance.Second,measured by dominant(first-order) air passenger flows,a highly concentrated hierarchical system of passenger air transport and spatial organization of cities has evolved in the form of the control of three top-ranked,national command and control centers from 1995 to 2003.Third,under the national hierarchy led by Beijing,Shanghai,and Guangzhou-Shenzhen,the regional and provincial significance of such cities as Chengdu,Xi'an,Kunming,Xiamen and Urumqi is also evident.Fourth,it seems that the hierarchical nature of the patterns of intercity linkages is increasing.The expansion of China's regional airlines and the probable development of the hub-and-spoke network system have the potential to promote further hierarchical connections and organization in China's national air transport network and urban system.
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