FDI and industrial development in a mega-city region: a modelling study on the Pearl River Delta

Yuyuan Wen, Karima Kourtit, Peter Nijkamp*, Yuanzhao Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Foreign direct investment (FDI) and regional development are mutually interwoven phenomena. This paper introduces an analytical framework to investigate the interaction mechanism between FDI and regional industrial structure. This framework posits first that FDI generally has a significant influence on the industrial structure in the region concerned, specifically through intervening mechanisms such as capital supply, active selection, passive competition, product linkage, imitation and demonstration and employee flows. Secondly, the industrial structure, in turn, also affects FDI flows through mechanisms including market demand, factor supply and policy or institutional factors. Finally, there are bi-directional interactions; using a spatial interaction framework, the present study applies and tests a simultaneous equation model and a spatial Durbin model to analyse empirical data from 15 urban regions in the Pearl River Delta mega-city region (PRD) in China spanning the period 2005–2018. The key findings from this multi-scalar analysis are: (i) there are substantial interactive effects between FDI and industrial structure, with the rationalisation and upgrading of the industrial structure significantly promoting FDI inflows into the PRD; (ii) FDI inflows, in turn, contribute to the reinforcement and upgrading of the industrial structure in the PRD; and (iii) the interactions between FDI and industrial structure exhibit significant spatial-economic growth effects. We also find that moderator factors, including independent R&D level, market size, marketisation level, labour cost, infrastructure and government expenditure, have discernible impacts on FDI inflows and the rationalisation and upscaling of the industrial-economic structure in the area concerned. Finally, we note that, in our study, significant spatial dependence effects among urban areas inside the PRD area are observed and modelled. The discussion of the empirical findings leads to the identification of several important policy implications and lessons for regional development strategies from an FDI perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalArea Development and Policy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jun 2024


  • FDI
  • industrial structure
  • mega-city region
  • Pearl River Delta (PRD)
  • simultaneous equation model
  • Spatial Durbin model


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