China's land use policies have largely discounted the significance of the relationship between landscape changes and residents’ geographical cognition. Rapid urbanization has generated the double pressures of ensuring the protection of farmland and meeting rising demands for urban construction land. The propulsion of top-down rural land consolidation (RLC) projects by the Chinese government has been unprecedented in recent years. In the context of RLC, local governments have focused on the expansion of areas of cultivated land and on generating new construction land quotas. However, perceptions of the changes that large-scale RLC projects bring to rural landscapes among local residents, whose place-based identities (often referred to as place identity) are forged through lifelong associations with these landscapes, have received little attention. Consequently, we explored how place identity influences rural residents’ perceptions of landscape changes in RLC areas in Eastern China, which has undergone rapid urban expansion and dramatic changes in its rural landscapes. We developed a structural equation model to analyse the effects of place identity, the intensity of RLC projects, and their quality on perceptions of landscape changes. A stratified sampling approach was used to collect data, and a good fit was found between the model and the sample data. The results of the model indicated that place identity, in conjunction with the quality of RLC projects, play a significant mediating role in relation to perceptions of positive landscape changes. Intensive RLC projects may induce positive perceptions of landscape changes. However, the quality of such projects may also be evaluated as being poor, which partially undermines the former effect. Positive evaluations of the quality of a RLC project can contribute to strengthening residents’ positive perceptions of landscape changes, which are significantly enhanced through the mediating effect of place identity. We discuss and interpret these findings by incorporating them in China's governance system in relation particularly to land-use planning and rural revitalization.
- Landscape perception
- Place identity
- Rural land consolidation
- Structural equation modelling