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Sustainability 2017, 9(10), 1782; doi:10.3390/su9101782

Divergent Developmental Trajectories and Strategic Coupling in the Pearl River Delta: Where Is a Sustainable Way of Regional Economic Growth?

1
School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
2
Center of Integrated Geographic Information Analysis, School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
3
Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
4
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
5
Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 September 2017 / Revised: 24 September 2017 / Accepted: 28 September 2017 / Published: 9 October 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Abstract

This paper interprets regional economic sustainability in the context of the globalization of late-coming regions. Drawing upon the concept of strategic coupling from economic geography, this paper proposes two types of strategic coupling, captive and proactive coupling, for better understanding regional sustainability and resilience through the experiences of the Pearl River Delta in China. It finds that sub-regional economies under captive coupling become highly dependent on exogenous growth and are vulnerable to external shocks. This trajectory looks less sustainable according to the general understanding, but it interestingly shows better resilience during and after the 2008 global financial crisis. In contrast, the ones under proactive coupling are less volatile, but growing much slower and are less resilient. By reporting these regional economic dynamics, this paper argues that sustainability in late-coming regions cannot be explained by either intra-regional forces or the means of global integration alone. In contrast, it has to be explained by the combination of both; the alleged strategic coupling in which economic growth and learning happens. This paper thus calls for greater attention to strategic coupling, the trade-off of globalization and resilience for understanding regional sustainability, rather than purely focusing on resource utilization and ecological balance. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainability; regional development; strategic coupling; resilience; the Pearl River Delta sustainability; regional development; strategic coupling; resilience; the Pearl River Delta
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Liu, Y.; Liang, Y.; Ma, S.; Huang, K. Divergent Developmental Trajectories and Strategic Coupling in the Pearl River Delta: Where Is a Sustainable Way of Regional Economic Growth? Sustainability 2017, 9, 1782.

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