China has achieved a remarkable economic growth in the past two decades. However, the rapid economic development has led to regional disparities between the advanced coastal regions and the other regions. Regional development planning in China has sought to achieve the redress of regional disparities as well as a high economic growth. This paper aims to examine the role of core cities in the development of Chinese regional economy and their impact on regional differentials. Following a brief review of regional development planning in China, the paper examines the role of core cities on the regional development and the trends in regional disparities using data for seven coastal provinces (Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei and Liaoning) and three municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai) in the period 1989-1997. It shows that while the coastal regions achieved a high economic growth, the extent of regional disparities and the contributions of core cities to the reduction of economic differentials varied among provinces. The paper concludes by proposing future issues on regional development planning in China.