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Exploring the Benefits of Small Catchments on Rural Spatial Governance in Wuling Mountain Area, China

Qiao, Jie; Crang, Mike; Hong, Liangping; Li, Xiaofeng

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Jie Qiao

Liangping Hong

Xiaofeng Li


China is facing an important period of rural governance innovation and restructuring of territorial spatial patterns. This paper selects catchments as the most closely related spatial units for rural industrial development and rural settlement activities, profoundly revealing the characteristics of transformational development and spatial governance in mountainous areas. To date, extensive literature in this area has produced a broad multidisciplinary consensus on catchment water and soil conservation and rural industry development; however, the interactive mechanism of ecological, social, and economic networks, and the characteristics behind small catchments which benefit from spatial governance, have never been analyzed and are relatively new to the sphere of rural governance. Our research argues the relative importance of multi-scale catchment units compared with traditional administrative village units in enhancing the organizational benefits of rural revitalization in terms of workforce, resources, and capital, using the case study of a catchment in the Wuling mountainous area. Our study presents a framework to explore the multi-dimensional governance experience of a small catchment in the Wuling mountainous area and proposes to integrate the resource endowment advantages of small catchments into rural industries development and transform the economic and social benefits contained in the ecological environment into multi-scale spatial benefits among farmers, villages, and the regional rural area. However, not all cases provide positive evidence. The overall development of a catchment is confronted with complex constraints, which are mainly related to the development stage and local historical and geographical factors. Furthermore, affected by the top-down “project-system” in the “poverty era”, the logic of “betting on the strong” and the single-centered logic of resource allocation at the grassroots level exacerbated the fragmentation of the mountainous area. Generally speaking, the catchment perspective promotes regional linkage development and multi-center governance modes and triggers multidisciplinary theoretical thinking to some extent. The catchment’s overall development helps play to the comparative advantage of mountainous areas and promotes endogenous sustainable development to a certain degree. However, the promotion of catchment governance in poverty-stricken mountainous areas is faced with a lack of financial foundation and needs support in order to break through the national system and local social constraints.


Qiao, J., Crang, M., Hong, L., & Li, X. (2021). Exploring the Benefits of Small Catchments on Rural Spatial Governance in Wuling Mountain Area, China. Sustainability, 13(2),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 29, 2020
Online Publication Date Jan 14, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Feb 26, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 1, 2021
Journal Sustainability
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 2


Published Journal Article (8.8 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited

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