The primary goal of this research is to undertake an analytical study addressing the urbanisation of rural areas as a major territorial, environmental and cultural challenge. The new relations that have developed between urban and rural areas clearly signal that today we need to see the rural world as a research subject in its own right, rather than simply viewing it as the counterpart of the urban. Our study focuses specifically on the urbanisation of Chinaâs rural areas: a highly significant example in terms of both scale and contemporary relevance. Even though it was back in 2005 that the programme of âbuilding a new socialist countrysideâ in the 11th Five Year Plan placed the future of the rural sphere at the heart of Chinaâs economic, political and social challenges, it is now, ten years on, that we can examine this projectâs spatial and territorial implications. We consider the urbanisation of Chinaâs rural areas as a spatial manifestation of a necessary process of modernisation and evolution. In this context, understanding the dramatic changes that have taken place and the conflicts they have engendered requires setting them in their wider historical, economic and cultural contexts. We demonstrate that the urbanisation of Chinaâs rural areas is the combined outcome of real-estate speculation, national regulations and local initiatives that can only be understood through a territorial diagnosis. Our approach involves undertaking a theoretical consideration of real-life conditions as an empirical basis for evaluating the process of territorial transformation. The aim here is to assess the effective territorial impact of the conflicting dynamics at work â master plans on the one hand (ex-nihilo) ; simultaneous endogenous (in-situ) development on the other. We apply this prospective analytical approach to a corpus of three case studies: Chengyang District (Shandong) and the cities of Dengfeng (Henan) and Dujiangyan (Sichuan) and their surrounding areas. It is these regionsâ largely unremarkable geographic, economic and cultural profiles that qualify them representatives of a nationwide phenomenon. We undertake a territorial diagnosis guided by the identification and analysis of nested samples at a range of geographic and temporal scales. The significant wastage this diagnosis reveals suggests that this process is likely to be irreversible, entailing an irrevocable loss of Chinaâs rural dimension. We conclude that the major challenge in developing Chinaâs rural areas has two key components: the planning of the invasive new cities on the one hand; and the planning deficit for rural areas on the other â whether this pertains to their development or to their preservation. On the basis of this territorial diagnosis we then construct three scenarios for the future, looking ahead to 2050. The negative externalities of the first two scenarios lay bare the future impacts of present-day mechanisms if they continue on their current path, degrading the specific constituent elements of rural territories and the societies that inhabit them. Working to the same time scheme, the third scenario sketches out solutions, based on an inclusive approach to territorial development. This scenario proposes a system based on chains of interests that draws together all the territoryâs various components, exploring the potential for a new rural-centric territorial planning paradigm.